The House of Ice and Fire - EliGuard (2024)

Chapter 1: Return of the Targaryen Wolf

Summary:

Jon Snow fights back against his failure, which had allowed the realms of man to fall to the Long Night. He and his mount Rhaegal fight against the Night King one final time just above the frozen wastes of Old Valyria. In his final moments, he makes his peace, welcoming the death that he was long overdue but it does not last.

Chapter Text

Valyria 310 AC

Jon Snow/ Aemon Targaryen

Underneath a sky painted in hues of blood and bruised violet, the excellent smoking sea of Essos stretched out endlessly, a churning cauldron of ash and embers. A dragon rider, perched atop a massive scaled beast with eyes like molten gold, surveyed the desolation below as an endless winter covered the once smoking land, and a blizzard ravaged everything with endless ferocity. The air was thick with the acrid scent of smoke and sulfur, and the once-great cities of Valyria lay in ruin, their spires and towers reduced to twisted, blackened remnants of their former glory.

Beneath the dragon rider, the ruins of Valyria sprawled like the carcass of a fallen giant, its once-proud towers reduced to heaps of shattered stone. The city, which had once been a marvel of architectural ingenuity, was now a labyrinth of crumbling walls and scorched archways. Vines twisted like black serpents around the remnants of grand palaces, their tendrils snaking through cracks in the stone as if trying to reclaim what was lost.

Amidst the devastation, the dragon rider saw glimpses of the city's former opulence: shards of stained glass windows, their vibrant colors now muted by time and smoke; ornate mosaics depicting long-forgotten legends, their intricate details marred by the passage of centuries; and fragments of marble statues, their proud faces eroded by the relentless onslaught of the elements. Each step through the ruins was a journey through history, a reminder of the majesty that had once been Valyria.

The smoking sea, a vast expanse of turbulent waters, bubbled and churned with an eerie vitality, at least, it did long ago no the bubbles froze; the smoking sea was nothing but snow and an endless mass of frozen water. Wisps of smoke rose from its surface, obscuring the horizon and casting a ghostly pallor over the scene as if the lands still knew that they were once fire and were too stubborn to be only ice, just like the rider himself. The sea itself seemed alive, its depths concealing mysteries as ancient and profound as the ruins that surrounded it. The dragon rider could feel the heat from the smoking sea, a palpable force that prickled his skin and made his eyes water, and yet the cold winds stopped the heat from becoming overbearing; this was the only place of warmth that the dragon rider could survive in now.

As the dragon circled lower, the rider could see remnants of what was once a bustling harbor, now submerged beneath the ashen waves. The skeletal remains of ships jutted out of the water like the fingers of a drowning sailor, their masts and rigging tangled in a macabre dance. The sea, tainted by the cataclysm that had befallen Valyria, seemed to pulse with otherworldly blackened magics, a reminder of the terrible power that had brought about the city's downfall.

Even if the blood of the dragon was in his veins, the rider did not revel in his ancestors before the fall. They practiced magics blacker than sin, and all gods would condemn the magics that twisted flesh, magics of black, fire, and blood. The magic that twisted the great wyrms and mixed them with meek wyverns to make fire-breathing monstrosities that terrified both Essos and Westeros. The same creatures the rider rode upon now.

It was the blood of the First Men he claimed and honored the most. The blood of his mother, her father, and her father before him. Stubborn as they are, the First Men claimed him, fought for him, and died for him; his only regret was that he could not do the same for them a second time. The Freefolk claimed him when he was north of the Wall; the Northmen claimed him when he returned and brought the North against the true enemy, death.

But now there were no Valryians, no First Men, no Rhoynar or Andals, no Dathraki or Unsullied. All that was left was he; he was all that was left—the last dragon, the last dragon king, the last wolf, the last King in the North, the last man. He was merely Aemon Targaryen, one of the two last creatures with a beating heart and a thinking mind. After he and his mount, there would be no more.

In truth, Aemon welcomed this; Aemon welcomed an end to years after his resurrection by the red priestess. Aemon understood the truest magics after spending time in the ruins of Valyria, searching for a way to end the Others. Only death could pay for life, and the death of Shireen Baratheon, burnt alive, gave the witch enough strength in her craft to bring Aemon back to life.

He yearned to end this cruel joke from the gods if they were real. He knew not why he and Rhaegal, his mount, still lived through this horrible winter with no end. Even though their time had long since gone and their demise was inevitable, every time they met their enemies, they were released after suffering a little more damage. He had the impression that the Night King was amusing himself.

Both knew that only the other could end the existence of the other. Jon Snow had been killed at Castle Black and yet returned, later learning his true name and purpose. Arya had slain the Night King, and yet, as was said, only the promised prince can do such things; in the end, the Night King and his living dead returned once more, several years later after Westeros had fallen to Daenerys' madness.

The battle with the Lannisters and years of battle in the continent had drained the men dry of all things, and when Daenerys' armies came to fight in their stead, they were all slaughtered to gain the supposed victory granted by Arya. The Night King attacked when Essos' armies were weakened due to Westeros never fully rising to fight. Once Westeros fell, and Essos had no armies to fight back, it soon fell. And the world of men soon fell in quick succession.

There were moments when Aemon thought he should deny the Night King the win he'd long since earned in a game that would only conclude when he determined it would. He was ready to end his life at other times for various reasons. Sometimes, his suffering was unbearable, and he yearned to give in to the overwhelming impulse just to give up and go to them.

But he was unable to. Not only was he unsure a single heaven existed, let alone seven, and was waiting for him, but he was also uncertain if he would be accepted in such a place. In any case, why would the gods reward a failure like him? Why would there be a place for a man who was supposed to save the world and couldn't even save his family? A husband who failed to save his wife and a father who failed to save his kids. People such as that belonged in the seven hells that the earth had descended into, not the heavens; thus, he suffered life because he deserved to experience it.

The great-scaly creature roared a terrifying roar, ripping Aemon from his thoughts. His roar, a primal scream that echoed through the ruins of Valyria, sent shivers down the spines of even the bravest souls. It was a sound that spoke of ancient fury, a reminder of a time when dragons ruled the world and all feared their wrath. The air seemed to tremble with the force of his voice, and those who heard it could not help but quiver in its presence.

Rhaegal, the emerald-bronze dragon, soared through the smoky skies with wide wings, casting a vast shadow upon the ruins of Valyria below. His scales gleamed in the fading light, each one a mosaic of emerald and bronze, catching the dying moonlight in a dazzling display. Aemon had not seen the sun in years and thought it was a sign that, on this day, he would bear witness to the first moonlight during the second Long Night. With eyes like molten gold, he surveyed the desolation beneath him, a predator searching for prey amidst the wreckage of a fallen kingdom.

Rhaegal, the Emerald Death, they once called his dragon—the last of his brothers, the last of Daenerys' three dragons. The Night King, once he had returned once more, had taken Drogon to mount like he did Viserion. Drogon hated Aemon with a passion once Aemon had killed his rider. But the dragon knew the dead were far worse, sparing his life. The dragon somehow knew that the battle of the dead had not ended but was in reprieve. Once the dead had returned once more, Drogon came upon the horde of dead and set them ablaze with never-ending flames. Aemon recalled the battle in which Drogon was lost; the last battle in the living stood a chance.

In the depths of the darkest winter, when the world was shrouded in an eternal night, and the howling winds carried the icy breath of the Others, Rhaegal and Drogon, the last of their kind, soared above the frozen battlefield. Their scales, emerald-bronze, and obsidian-black, gleamed like beacons amidst the endless expanse of white. Their eyes, burning with ancient fury and defiance, scanned the horizon, searching for the horde of the Others that threatened to engulf the world in eternal frost.

The endless army of Others stretched out before them, a sea of pale, frozen faces and glittering blue eyes. The air frozen with the malevolent winds of their presence, and their footsteps echoed like the drumming of a funeral march. But Rhaegal and Drogon were not deterred. They were dragons, creatures of fire and blood, and in the face of the endless winter, they were the last hope of humanity.

With a thunderous roar, Rhaegal unleashed a torrent of searing flames upon the approaching horde. The fire danced and twisted, consuming the White Walkers in its embrace. The frozen creatures, once so confident in their invincibility, shrieked in agony as the flames licked at their icy skin, melting them into puddles of water and steam. The smell of burning flesh and charred bone filled the air, a testament to the dragons' wrath.

Drogon, the largest and most fearsome of the two, followed suit, his mighty wings beating the air with a deafening roar. His flames were hotter and more ferocious, a white-hot inferno that turned the very snow beneath him into molten rivers. The White Walkers, caught in the onslaught, were incinerated in moments, their bodies reduced to ash and smoke.

Amidst the chaos, Rhaegal and Drogon moved in perfect harmony, their movements fluid and graceful despite their massive size. They circled each other, creating a deadly dance of death and destruction. The White Walkers, once a formidable force, were now nothing more than a smoldering ruin in their wake.

But the battle was far from over. The Night King, with eyes as blue as the frozen sea, emerged from the midst of his dwindling army. He raised his arms, and a blizzard of ice and snow engulfed the dragons, attempting to smother their flames. But Rhaegal and Drogon were not so easily extinguished.

With a defiant roar, Rhaegal unleashed a blast of fire that cut through the storm, his flames burning brighter and hotter than ever before. Drogon followed suit, his flames merging with Rhaegal's in a dazzling display of power. The blizzard melted away, unable to withstand the sheer force of the dragons' fury.

Under the shadowy veil of night, as the stars flickered feebly above, the Night King's malevolent eyes fixed upon Drogon, the mighty black-scaled dragon. With a cruel twist of fate, he hurled a spear of ice, honed from the frigid depths of winter, with deadly accuracy. The icy projectile sailed through the air, finding its mark with chilling precision, embedding itself deep into Drogon's neck. A deafening roar of pain and fury shook the very heavens, reverberating through the snow-laden landscape.

Drogon writhed in agony, his enormous wings beating the air in futile desperation. His obsidian-black scales, once impenetrable, were stained crimson with his own blood. The dragon's eyes, once alive with fire, now flickered with a hollow, soulless blue as the Night King's magic seeped into his veins, twisting his very essence.

With a gesture as cold as death itself, the Night King raised his hand, commanding the fallen dragon to rise. Slowly, agonizingly, Drogon obeyed, his movements stiff and unnatural. The dragon, once a creature of freedom and majesty, was now a puppet, a slave to the Night King's will. His wings, which had once carried him to the heavens, were now bound in servitude, and his roar, once a cry of triumph, was now a mournful wail that echoed through the night, more like crackling ice and the screeches of a banshee rather than a proud dragon's roar.

Under the Night King's control, Drogon took to the skies once more, his undead form a terrifying sight to behold. His eyes glowed with an eerie, otherworldly light, and his breath, once a scorching torrent of fire, now exhaled a chilling mist that froze the very air it touched. The Night King rode upon his back, a figure of death and despair, his icy touch sapping the warmth from the world around him. From there, the war was over, and it was now merely a game to him; it took two dragons to defeat the Night King with an undead mount, and it would be twice as difficult now with a dragon bigger than an undead Viserion, but an undead Drogon was far harder to defeat.

Aemon, his thoughts heavy with the weight of the past, spurred Rhaegal onward, the emerald-bronze dragon stretching his powerful wings against the howling winds. Together, they ascended into the storm-laden skies. The world below vanished beneath a shroud of relentless white as if the very heavens wept in icy grief.

The blizzard that engulfed them was unlike any other, a tempest of such ferocity that even the once-fiery volcanoes of Valyria had succumbed to the biting cold. The mountains that had once spewed molten fury into the sky were now frozen sentinels, their peaks adorned with icy crowns. The very winds were cold with the frigid embrace of winter, and the world seemed to hold its breath, waiting for the storm to pass.

Rhaegal's emerald eyes glowed with an inner fire, a stark contrast to the desolation that surrounded them. His wings beat against the biting winds, carrying Aemon and himself through the heart of the blizzard. Aemon's fur-lined cloak whipped around him, its warmth a feeble barrier against the bone-chilling cold. Yet, he held on, his grip firm on Rhaegal's scales, his determination unwavering.

As they flew, Aemon's thoughts turned to the world they left behind. Valyria, the land of legends and forgotten mysteries, now lay buried beneath layers of snow and ice. The once-great cities, home to dragons and sorcerers, were nothing more than distant memories swallowed by the unforgiving embrace of winter.

The storm raged on, its fury unyielding, yet Aemon felt a strange sense of calm amidst the chaos. Perhaps it was the knowledge that he was not alone, that he had Rhaegal, the last of the great dragons, as his companion in this frozen wasteland. Or perhaps it was the realization that, even in the face of such overwhelming darkness, there was a flicker of hope, a glimmer of warmth that refused to be extinguished.

In the heart of the blizzard, Aemon's eyes narrowed with grim determination. He understood the Night King's strategy all too well. Valyria, the birthplace of dragons, the land where fire and magic once reigned supreme, was now threatened by the encroaching chill of the endless winter. The Night King sought to extinguish the very essence of what made Valyria legendary, turning its fiery heart into an icy tomb. It was a conquest that went beyond mere territory, the final nail in the frozen coffin of the world.

With each beat of Rhaegal's wings, Aemon's resolve hardened. He knew the importance of their mission. As the last living beings with ties to the ancient Valyrian magic, their demise would mark the end of an era. The Smoking Sea, once a cauldron of fire and smoke, would fully freeze over, its depths becoming a lifeless expanse of ice. The world, stripped of its mystical essence, would succumb to the Night King's icy grasp, a realm devoid of the warmth that had once sustained life.

But Aemon refused to let that happen. Even if he was no longer a man of the Night's Watch, he was the Sword in the Darkness, the Shield that Guards the Realms of Men. He was the last of the Night's Watch, the defender of the living against the encroaching darkness. And Rhaegal, the last dragon, was his ally in this battle against the cold. With every breath, they defied the Night King's advance, pushing deeper into the heart of Valyria, where the Night King awaited, his icy tendrils stretching towards the ancient source of power.

As they neared the center of Valyria, the land of fire-made flesh now swallowed by the relentless winter, Jon's grip tightened on Rhaegal's scales. His eyes met the dragon's molten gaze, a silent understanding passing between them. They were the last defenders of the realm, the guardians of a dying legacy. They would face the Night King together, their courage a flickering flame against the vast, engulfing darkness.

The winds howled around them as they approached the epicenter of Valyria, where the Night King lay in wait. Aemon unsheathed his sword, Longclaw, its steel glinting dimly in the fading light. Rhaegal roared a defiant cry that echoed through the frozen wasteland. They were ready to confront the Night King, to stand against the endless winter and protect the world from being consumed by the cold.

As Aemon and Rhaegal approached the center of Valyria, they beheld a sight that chilled them to the bone. An endless army of White Walkers and undead stretched across the frozen seas, their lifeless eyes gleaming with an unnatural blue light. The sea of corpses seemed unending, a relentless tide that marched tirelessly toward the heart of Valyria. The ground trembled beneath the weight of their footsteps, echoing the ominous beat of a funeral march.

The closer they ventured towards the center, the harsher the snow blew, as if nature itself rebelled against the encroaching dragon. The winds howled with an eerie melody, carrying with them the whispers of the fallen and the cries of the damned. The air grew thick with an icy chill, cutting through Aemon's cloak and biting at his skin.

Aemon's eyes, once steely and resolute, now reflected a mixture of determination and dread. The magnitude of the threat before him was overwhelming. The Night King's army was a force of unyielding death, an embodiment of the endless winter that threatened to consume the world. The odds seemed insurmountable, and yet Aemon knew he could not falter. He was the realm's last hope, the beacon of light in a world submerged in darkness.

Rhaegal's powerful wings beat against the storm, carrying them forward into the heart of the approaching horde. The dragon's eyes blazed with an inner fire, mirroring Jon's determination. With a silent understanding between them, they prepared for the battle ahead. Jon gripped his sword, Longclaw, hard harder as the dark rippled Valyrian steel shimmering in the pale light. He steeled himself, drawing upon the courage of generations long past, the legacy of the Starks and Targaryens, and the bravery of the Night's Watch. Jon Snow's voice, raw with determination and fury, pierced the air as he screamed.

"Dracarys!"

The ancient Valyrian command sent a shiver down the spine of Rhaegal, the emerald-bronze dragon, who responded with a deafening roar. With a mighty beat of his wings, Rhaegal ascended into the sky, his scales glinting in the pale light before he unleashed a torrent of green and bronze flames upon the unending hordes of the undead.

The emerald inferno erupted from Rhaegal's maw, a searing cascade of fire that consumed everything in its path. The flames roared with a ferocity that matched the dragon's wrath, casting a brilliant light amidst the encroaching darkness. The army of the dead, once a relentless force, now found itself engulfed in a cataclysm of dragonfire.

Rhaegal circled above the battlefield, his eyes ablaze with primal power. With each pass, he sent waves of fire crashing into the endless ranks of White Walkers and undead, turning them into pillars of ash and smoke. The air was thick with the acrid scent of burning flesh and bone, and the ground trembled beneath the force of Rhaegal's onslaught.

The emerald-bronze dragon moved with unmatched grace and precision, his flames carving a path of destruction through the sea of the undead. His roars echoed across the battlefield, drowning out the screams of the dying and instilling fear into the hearts of those who still stood. Rhaegal's wings beat rhythmically, carrying him effortlessly through the night, his movements a deadly dance of fire and death.

The hordes of the undead, no matter how vast, were no match for the fury of Rhaegal's flames. The dragon's fire engulfed them, turning them into charred remnants of their former selves. The endless ranks that had once seemed unstoppable now withered and fell before the might of the last living dragon.

The emerald and bronze flames erupted from the skies, casting a brilliant spectacle against the inky darkness of the blizzard as the storms consumed the moon once more. They cascaded like a celestial waterfall, a mesmerizing torrent of fire and fury, their radiance a stark contrast to the unending cold that had gripped the world. The embers of Rhaegal's flames danced with an eerie, ethereal beauty, their green and bronze hues painting a portrait of destruction and defiance.

As the dragonfire descended upon the endless hordes of the undead, it created a tapestry of searing death. The flames engulfed the Others and their minions, reducing them to twisted, charred figures that disintegrated into ash. The screams of the dying and the crackling of the fire echoed through the night, a symphony of chaos and vengeance.

Amidst the flames and the chaos, the Night King emerged from the depths of the snowstorm. His malevolent presence, a dark figure clad in icy armor, seemed to materialize from the very heart of the blizzard. Atop an undead Drogon, he exuded an aura of dread and power, a harbinger of death and despair.

The two dragons, Rhaegal and Drogon, roared in unison, their voices echoing through the frozen skies. With a deafening roar, the two dragons charged toward each other, their enormous forms colliding in a titanic clash. The sky became a battleground, their massive wings casting aside the storm clouds as they grappled in a deadly dance. Their roars reverberated through the night, a primal symphony of power and determination.

The battle in the skies was a spectacle of elemental forces, a contest of fire and ice, life and death. The dragons clashed with a ferocity that shook the very heavens, their flames and frost entwined in a deadly embrace. Each pass, each attack, was a testament to the indomitable will of both sides, a battle that would shape the destiny of the world.

As the dragons circled each other in the frigid air, their riders, Aemon Targaryen and the Night King, locked eyes in a silent challenge. It was a moment of destiny, a confrontation between the champions of light and darkness, a battle that would decide the ultimate fate of the realm.

The clash of dragons reached a fevered pitch as blue flames erupted from the undead Drogon's gaping maw, casting an eerie azure glow across the snow-laden battlefield. The Night King's dragonfire crackled with an unnatural cold, an icy blaze that contrasted sharply against the emerald and bronze flames of Rhaegal. The two dragons roared in defiance, their roars echoing through the frozen air.

Rhaegal responded with a blast of his own green flames, the embers roaring forth with a fierce intensity. The emerald and bronze fire clashed with the Night King's frigid blue flames, creating a dazzling display of elemental power. The sky became a canvas of contrasting hues, a tumultuous symphony of fire and ice.

Amidst the clash of flames, the dragons locked eyes, their primal instincts driving them into a deadly grapple. With powerful beats of their wings, they soared towards each other, their claws outstretched like talons of death. The impact was thunderous as they collided mid-air, the force of their collision almost knocking Aemon off his mount. The two masses of dragons slammed into one another with enough force to collapse the Wall itself.

Their claws hooked onto one another, and they spiraled in a deadly dance, scales grinding against scales in a cacophony of fury. Rhaegal's burnt golden eyes blazed with determination, and Drogon's lifeless blue gaze glowed with an unholy malevolence. Their jaws snapped open and shut, attempting to rip at each other's necks with razor-sharp teeth.

The clash was primal and savage, a battle of titans locked in mortal combat. Each dragon fought with an indomitable will, their bodies twisting and contorting in the air as they grappled for supremacy. The clash of their jaws sent sparks flying, and the smell of burning flesh and singed scales permeated the air.

In the midst of their deadly grapple, Drogon's jaws clamped down on Rhaegal's shoulder, his teeth sinking into the emerald-bronze scales. The force of the bite sent shockwaves of pain through Rhaegal's body, eliciting a deep, primal roar of anguish. Rhaegal roared in agony. His roar was almost a defeated whimper, but his anger would not allow him to make such a pathetic sound. He roared thrice as loud as ever before. In retaliation, Rhaegal twisted his neck and sank his own teeth into Drogon's flesh. At the same time, he unleashed a torrent of his green and bronze flames directly into Drogon's wound, the searing heat intertwining with the cold of the Night King's creature.

The flames mingled within Drogon's wound, going into the almost hollow body of the dragon. For a moment, the undead dragon faltered, his grip loosening as the intense pain and heat surged through his body. Yet, Drogon's undead nature proved resilient. His eyes, once blue and lifeless, remained unfazed, devoid of pain or fear. He let go of Rhaegal, his jaws snapping back, and though the wound smoked with the dragonfire, it showed no sign of slowing him down.

"Sōvegon, Rhaegal! Jikagon eglikta! Eglikta!" 'Fly Rhaegal! Go higher! Higher!' Aemon roared to his mount in High Valryian, his accent far too Northern than was customary.

The emerald-bronze dragon obeyed, beating his powerful wings with renewed determination. They ascended swiftly, leaving the battlefield below and the Night King's icy gaze far behind. As they soared higher, the blizzard raged below them, obscuring their path from the Night King's view.

Jon's heart hammered in his chest as they climbed higher into the stormy heavens. He knew they needed the advantage of surprise if they were to stand a chance against the Night King and his formidable undead army. With each beat of Rhaegal's wings, they ascended further until the howling winds and the biting cold masked their presence from the eyes of their enemies. The winds ripped past Aemon's face as the roar of air stopped all other sounds, and the icy snowflakes flew past his face like small spears.

Higher and higher, they climbed until Rhaegal's wings carried them past the storm clouds that churned below. Higher still, they rose higher than any dragon dared to rise before. The roiling tempest, once an impenetrable barrier, now seemed like a distant memory as they soared into the pristine tranquility above. The vast expanse of space unfolded before them, revealing the twinkling stars that adorned the cosmos like scattered diamonds. Galaxies stretched out in infinite spirals, their colors painting the void with hues of ethereal beauty.

The full moon hung in the celestial tapestry, its silvery light casting a gentle glow upon the world below. Its radiance reflected off the emerald-bronze scales of Rhaegal, illuminating the dragon and his rider in a surreal, otherworldly light. It was a moment of surreal peace amidst the chaos of battle, a fleeting respite where time seemed to stand still.

Aemon, perched upon Rhaegal's back, took a moment to appreciate the serene beauty that surrounded them. The quietude of the cosmos enveloped them, and the calmness of the night washed over him like a soothing balm. He marveled at the vastness of the universe, the countless stars and galaxies that stretched out into infinity.

In the hushed stillness of the high heavens, Aemon found solace. He gazed at the stars, contemplating the mysteries of the universe and the enigma of life. His fingers brushed Rhaegal's scales, feeling the warmth beneath the emerald-bronze exterior. The dragon's presence was a comfort, a reminder that amidst the chaos, there was still a bond, a connection between man and beast.

It was a moment of reflection, a pause in the midst of the storm. The calm before the battle that awaited them. Aemon closed his eyes, letting the silence of the cosmos envelop him. He drew a deep breath, inhaling the crisp, cold air of the high skies. In that moment, he felt a strange sense of clarity, a determination that steeled his resolve.

Aemon, his knowledge of dragon-riding gleaned from the ancient Valyrian texts, understood the fundamental principles that governed these magnificent creatures. As he clung to Rhaegal's back high above the storm clouds, he knew that to defeat the undead Drogon, they needed speed and agility.

A dragon's flight was governed by this unyielding principle. To gain altitude and soar high above the battlefield, the dragon must sacrifice its speed. The massive wings, each beat a testament to the power of ancient Valyrian blood, could lift the dragon to great heights, offering a vantage point to survey the battlefield and strategize. In the silence of the high skies, a dragon and its rider could survey the vast expanse below, identifying threats and opportunities alike.

Conversely, to gain speed, a dragon must descend, using the force of gravity to propel itself forward. The dragon's sheer size and weight became an advantage in these moments, allowing it to hurtle through the air with breathtaking velocity. It was a maneuver that required precision and timing, a dance of gravity and power, as the dragon dived towards the earth, the wind roaring past its scales.

Understanding this delicate interplay of height and speed was crucial in battle. Aemon had honed his skills, learning when to ascend for a strategic advantage and when to descend for a swift attack. His command over Rhaegal was more than just a bond; it was a partnership built on knowledge and trust to kill death itself and bring fire and blood to winter.

With a firm grip on Rhaegal's scales, Jon leaned forward, his voice cutting through the silence of the cosmos. "Ropagon, Rhaegal!" Aemon ordered. His words were carried away by the wind. Rhaegal, sensing his rider's determination, obeyed without hesitation.

The emerald-bronze dragon responded with a powerful beat of his wings, tucking them close to his body as he began his descent, and he spun in the air to face the clouds beneath them. The rush of wind filled Aemon's ears as they plummeted downward, using gravity to their advantage. The world blurred around them, the twinkling stars and galaxies becoming streaks of light as they hurtled toward the earth below.

As they dove, Rhaegal's massive form became a streamlined arrow, his scales cutting through the air with increasing velocity. A green comment was striking down from the heavens. Their height and Rhaegal's size make every passage of seconds thrice as fast in speed as before. The descent allowed them to gain incredible speed, a vital advantage in their battle against the undead Drogon. Sacrificing height for speed, they became a force of nature, an unstoppable juggernaut hurtling towards their target.

Aemon could feel the rush of the wind, the pressure against his face, and the sheer power of the dive. He tightened his grip on Rhaegal's scales, his eyes fixed on the distant battlefield far below. The Night King's undead dragon was their prey, and they would use their speed and momentum to strike him down.

With a fierce determination, Rhaegal shot down from the ground towards the undead Drogon, his wings tucked close to his body. Drogon, aware of the incoming threat, unleashed a continuous stream of blue flames, a torrent of icy fire that lashed out towards the descending dragon. The searing flames struck Rhaegal, enveloping him in a curtain of blue and white, but the emerald-bronze dragon pressed on, his roar echoing through the battlefield despite the onslaught. The fires did not slow down the dragon faster than lightning.

Undeterred by the ferocity of the flames, Rhaegal bore down upon Drogon with unyielding resolve. With a thunderous impact, he slammed into the undead dragon, his powerful jaws closing around Drogon's neck. With a savage twist of his head, Rhaegal tore Drogon's head from its body, severing the connection between the Night King and his fearsome mount. Rhaegal let out a loud whimper as the killing blow to his brother left him vulnerable to Drogon's talons to spear through his chest. Even if Rhaegal were to survive the talons, he would not be able to survive the fall from this height.

The force of the collision sent Aemon hurtling through the air; his body was propelled off Rhaegal's back. Time seemed to slow as he flew, the world a blur of chaos and motion. His eyes locked onto the Night King, perched atop Drogon, a malevolent smirk playing on his lips.

Just as planned, Aemon's body arced through the freezing air, his sword, Longclaw, gleaming in the moonlight. With a fierce battle cry, he brought his weapon down upon the Night King, aiming for the heart. The Night King's eyes widened in surprise as he attempted to raise his icy blade in defense.

The clash of steel rang out as Longclaw met the Night King's weapon, a shower of sparks illuminating the night. Aemon's strength and determination surged through him, the weight of the world behind his strike over-head strike. The Night King fought back with supernatural speed and strength, their blades clashing in a deadly echo as the Night King's weapon came to his defense. The force of the two collided, sending both to topple over the beheaded Drogon, falling down to the ground hundreds of feet below.

In the heart of the chaos, Aemon and the Night King were wrenched from their mounts as the dragons collided, their weapons spiraling away into the abyss of the stormy skies. They grappled one another, two adversaries bound by destiny, falling hundreds of feet through the air.

Their bodies slammed into one another with bone-jarring force, the impact reverberating through them. Yet, neither yielded. They grappled and clawed, their battle an intricate dance of death and defiance. The sky became their arena, and the stars and galaxies were mere spectators of the clash of titans.

Their bodies twisted and contorted as they struggled, locked in a deadly embrace amidst the tempestuous winds. The Night King's eyes blazed with icy fury, his grip vice-like, while Jon fought back with every ounce of strength he possessed. The battle for the fate of the world continued, even as they plummeted toward the unforgiving earth below.

The wind roared in their ears, drowning out all other sounds. The world around them became a blur of snow, ice, and clouds. They were suspended between heaven and earth, their struggle a desperate fight for survival and supremacy. Each movement, each twist and turn, was a testament to their determination and willpower.

With a primal roar, Aemon managed to gain the upper hand for a moment, breaking free from the Night King's grip. He seized the opportunity, delivering powerful blows in rapid succession, aiming for the Night King's vulnerable points. The Night King, however, was not easily defeated. With a surge of supernatural strength, he retaliated, countering Aemon's attacks with calculated precision. The struggle continued, their bodies locked in a deadly ballet.

With the bitter winds of the high skies whipping around them, Aemon found himself overpowered, the Night King flipping him over so that he would fall first. Yet, in the face of certain death, Aemon's eyes glinted with a solemn acceptance. A sad smile curved his lips as he looked into the Night King's icy gaze.

"Killing you was the point," Aemon said, his voice carrying a weight of inevitability. "But living, living was a luxury." His fingers tightened around the hilt of the Catspaw dagger, the same weapon that had once been used in an attempt to assassinate Bran all those years ago.

With a sense of purpose that burned like wildfire, Jon whispered the words of the red priests, their ancient prayer of fire. The dagger responded to his incantation, its blade igniting with a bright green bronze flame, the fires of his dragon Rhaegal. The flames danced with a life of their own, casting an eerie glow across Jon's face, reflecting the fierce determination in his eyes.

In that moment, Jon Snow became a vessel of fire and fury, a beacon of hope amidst the encroaching darkness. The green bronze flames of his dragon, Rhaegal, found their manifestation in the blade of the dagger, a symbol of the bond between dragon and rider, life and death, light and shadow.

"Night gathers..." Jon began as the Night King tried to fight back the dagger, but the winds were pushing his arms back, making it easier for Aemon to push the dagger toward the heart of the Night King. "...and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch for this night and all the nights to come."

As the flames illuminated the freezing abyss of the skies, Jon drove the dagger toward the Night King with a force that defied his mortal limits. The blade struck true, piercing through the Night King's icy armor and into his heart. A shockwave of power reverberated through the air, a primal scream that echoed across the heavens. The screech of then thousand banshees and the sounds of glaciers cracking with icy winds.

The Night King's eyes widened in disbelief, his grip on Jon weakening. With a final surge of strength, Jon twisted the dagger, channeling the essence of Rhaegal's flame into the Night King's very soul. The Night King convulsed, his body consumed by the green bronze fire, his once-immortal form succumbing to the power of the living.

At that moment, the Night King's malevolent presence shattered like glass, his icy visage melting away into nothingness. Jon Snow and the Night King fell together, their fates intertwined until the very end. As they plummeted through the skies, Jon held onto the dagger, his grip unyielding, his spirit unbroken.

As the Night King met his end, his malevolent grip on the hordes of the undead was shattered. In the aftermath of his defeat, a powerful wave of energy rippled through the battlefield. The ground trembled, and the very air seemed to crackle with magic. All around, the Others and the undead, once formidable and relentless, began to crumble.

Their frozen forms disintegrated into dust, the essence that had bound them to the Night King dissipating into the wind. The night was filled with the sound of shattering ice and the echoes of the fallen as the countless undead creatures collapsed, their existence erased from the realm of the living.

The Night King's hold on his army was broken, and in their defeat, the hordes of the dead were no more. The battlefield, once a scene of chaos and terror, now lay silent, save for the howling winds and the whispers of the departing spirits.

He looked to Rhaegal, his dragon watching him in turn. While his dragon did not speak, it was cunning; it knew what was to happen. They would die here. They would fall to their deaths. How ironic that dragons would die from a fall. But they accepted this. Aemon welcomed this death, for maybe they could see their precious ones once more. The living had won, but no soul was left to celebrate.

"And now, my watch has ended," Aemon said. Aemon closed his eyes before he slammed into the ground.

Aemon once heard right before death that one sees one's life over again. And this he can claim to be true. For at first, he saw Lyanna Stark caressing her freshly born son, the sheets too bloodied for an ordinary birth. Tears on her face, her breath haggard and shallow, she was going to die. Uncle Eddard, no older than he was when he took charge of the Wall, rushed into the room, sword drawn as he saw his sister dying. Making the promise to protect her Aemon Targaryen, whom he would name his bastard Jon Snow.

He saw memories of his brothers and sisters, cousins in truth, as they played. He watched the times he beat Rob, but Lady Stark's stern face and icy blue eyes would be quickly reminded that harsh punishments would be his reward for upstaging the trueborn son. He recalled how he loved his brother and envied him more than anything else.

He recalled going to the Wall for the first time and making the vows. He recalled hearing of his father's death and Rob's own. He recalled spending time with the Freefolk. He recalled falling for Ygritte. He recalled becoming Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. He recalled being killed for saving the Freefolk and aiding them south of the Wall. He recalled being brought back once more. He recalled fighting the Boltons and reclaiming Winterfell. He recalled bowing to Daenerys Targaryen for her dragons to win the Long Night. He recalled fighting the Night King, but his hordes of undead pushed him away when Aemon had the chance to end the fight. He recalled Arya killing the Night King for the first time.

Going down to King's Landing. Daenerys became the Mad Queen as she burned the city to the ground. Killing her. Being thrown in jail. Greyworm wanted Jon to join the Night's Watch, leaving the land once more. Sansa was arguing against it. The North rose for him. With them came the Vale due to Sansa's support and Rob Arryn being bound by blood to support his cousin. The Riverlands joined, as well as Edmur Tully, to support his niece. The Crownlands, led by the Velaryons, support Aemon, for they wanted a dragon on the throne once more, and a dragon willing to sully his honor for the good of the realm was more than honorable in their eyes, especially after the Mad King.

Willas Tyrell, with the same blunt tact as his late grandmother, offered the support of Highgarden and the Reach. Bluntly setting a royal marriage as the price. Claiming Margery, the only survivor of the Great Burn, as the explosion of wildfire in the Sept of Balor was being called, was still a maiden for Renly was a sword sallower, Joffery had other distractions, and Tommen was too young.

The Reach still had over one hundred thousand men to fight, and the Tyrells did not support Daenerys because for one reason or another; with their armies and being the richest family in the seven kingdoms after the fall of the Lannisters, Aemon needed their support if he was to rule after the battle of King's Landing. Similar to how Robert Baratheon was forced to do with Cersei Lannister to help keep the kingdoms in line.

The Martells threatened to leave the seven kingdoms if they were not given a queen. To them, he was a bastard; even if his parents had married, they would never have recognized that Rhaegar annulled his marriage to Elia to marry his mother, Lyanna. Aemon knew that the Dornish survived multiple wars from his family even when they had more dragons than just his one, and knew he would be hard-pressed to take them back to the fold if they rebelled, especially since all the Westeroii forces were far too little to amount to anything.

Sansa, thinking quickly on his behalf, said that Aegon the Dragon had two wives, and so could Aemon. Both parties, looking at one another, agreed, with hesitation, that Reach and Dorne, not liking each other very much due to bad blood, supported Aemon. Tyrion agreed, as well as the new Warden of the West. All the Seven Kingdoms told Greyworm that if he wished for the death of Aemon or his banishment, it was their wrath they would feel.

He remembered the first time he met his late wife, Margery Tyrell, his betrothed at the time. Aemon stood in the gardens of the Red Keep; he never spent time in the gardens and wanted to see them for himself. He had been the King of the seven Kingdoms, several of the free cities, and the Bay of Dragons for a year already, nothing but work plaguing his time.

Margery Tyrell stood amidst the blooming gardens of the Red Keep, her presence exuding grace and warmth. His brown hair cascaded down her back. Her light green gown, with golden stitches, was just low enough on her breasts to accentuate them. She had heard that the King had spent little time with women after his wildling lover, especially since he was a member of the Night's Watch, and no noblewoman in their right mind would spend time with a bastard; she wore the dress to help make sure his eyes were on her breasts.

Her golden-brown locks cascaded down in soft waves, framing a face that could launch a thousand ships. The sunlight filtered through the intricate latticework of her delicate crown, casting a warm, golden glow upon her flawless skin.

Margery's sky-blue eyes sparkled with a mix of intelligence and charm, reflecting the world around her. They were eyes that held secrets and dreams, eyes that could enchant even the most stoic hearts. Her lips painted a subtle shade of rose, curved into a smile that could melt the iciest of souls. With every movement, she exuded grace and poise, her every gesture imbued with confidence and a hint of mischief.

Draped in sumptuous fabrics that seemed to have been spun from moonlight and stardust, Margery's gown clung to her slender figure in all the right places, accentuating her curves and enhancing her allure. Intricate embroidery adorned the fabric, depicting delicate roses in full bloom, a subtle nod to her noble lineage. The gown flowed gracefully as she moved, trailing behind her like a river of silk.

Her eyes sparkled with a playful charm as she looked at the newly crowned King of Westeros, Aemon, who appeared somewhat out of place in the elegant surroundings. He wore blackened clothes, nothing expensive; they looked sickeningly similar to the blackened jerkins of the Night's Watch.

Aemon, his dark gray eyes a blend of uncertainty and awkwardness, shifted uncomfortably under Margery's gaze. He attempted to find the right words, but they seemed to elude him. Clearing his throat, he managed a hesitant smile. "Lady Margery, it's an honor to meet you," he said, his voice tinged with a hint of formality.

Margery, ever perceptive, sensed Jon's unease and decided to put him at ease. "The honor is mine, Your Grace," she replied, her voice melodic and calming. "I must admit, I've heard many tales of your bravery and courage during the Long Night. They say you faced the Night King himself. A true hero of our time."

Aemon shifted his weight from one foot to the other, a gesture that revealed his discomfort. He was unused to courting; Ygritte had just told him she was his due to him stealing her when he had kidnapped her when they first met across the Wall; she was blunt and straightforward; subtlety was not her strength, and she claimed him quickly. It did not help that he had not spent time with his betrothed, Margery, or Arianne. "I... I only did what I had to do," he said, his humility evident. "We all fought together, and it was the unity of the realm that prevailed."

Margery smiled, her eyes softening with genuine admiration. "Modesty is a rare trait in a king," she said. "It speaks volumes of your character."

As they strolled through the gardens, Aemon's eyes fell upon a bust of Winter Roses, their delicate petals frozen, blue as the deep frozen oceans. He couldn't help but be drawn to the sculpture near them, a woman with a crown of roses, his gaze lingering on the intricate details.

Margery noticed his fascination and, following his gaze, spoke softly, her words carrying a touch of melancholy. "Winter Roses, the flowers of Winterfell. They're quite beautiful; this is the first time I have lain my eyes on them. A symbol of love and devotion."

"In Winterfell, I used to tend to the Winter Roses, far before I knew what they meant to my family, as a Stark or a Targaryen." Aemon nodded, his voice barely a whisper. "My parents... my mother loved Winter Roses. My father, Rhaegar, gave them to her."

Margery's eyes softened with understanding. "A love story for the ages," she said, her voice gentle. "It's said that Winter Roses are a reminder of the enduring bond between Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, your parents."

Aemon glanced at Margery, his eyes reflecting a mix of sorrow and pride. "Yes, a bond that changed the fate of the realm," he said, his tone tinged with a sense of reverence. "Love is the death of duty, Maester Aemon told me that. It would seem the case with my parents."

Margery reached out, her hand resting lightly on Jon's arm, offering him comfort in her touch. "Love stories like theirs are rare, Your Grace. It's a testament to the power of love, even in the face of challenges."

For the first time, Jon felt a sense of ease in Margery's presence. Her words resonated with him, and he found himself opening up, his stiff demeanor softening. "Thank you, Lady Margery," he said, his voice genuine. "Your words bring comfort."

Margery smiled, her kindness illuminating her features. "We all carry stories in our hearts, Your Grace," she said. "It's what makes us who we are."

When meeting Arianne, she had snuck into his chamber and somehow passed Aemon's guards; he had yet to establish King's guard since all had perished, and the ones before his reign were proven to be bought out by other lords and ladies.

Aemon stood in his bed-chamber, the dim candlelight casting flickering shadows across the walls. His mind was clouded with confusion and concern as he beheld Arianne Martell, his betrothed, who had seemingly appeared out of thin air past his guards and into the privacy of his chambers.

Arianne Martell, a vision of unmatched allure in the realm of Westeros, stood before him, a look of boarding anger on her face. Her presence commanded attention, her beauty the stuff of legends. Arianne possessed the kind of striking allure that could ensnare even the most indifferent hearts.

Arianne was short and gracefully built, her figure sculpted to perfection, accentuated by her gown that clung to her curves like a second skin. Her skin was bronzed, kissed by the sun of Dorne, smooth as silk, and adorned with a smattering of sun-kissed freckles across her nose and cheeks. Her eyes, a shade of deep, dark hazel, sparkled with intelligence and mischief, framed by long, thick lashes that brushed against her skin whenever she blinked.

Her lips, full and sensuous, carried a natural, inviting smile that hinted at secrets and promises whispered under moonlit Dornish nights. Arianne's hair, a cascading waterfall of glossy black curls, tumbled down her back, often adorned with jewels and flowers, enhancing her captivating charm. When she moved, her hair swayed like silk in the breeze, adding an ethereal quality to her already mesmerizing presence.

Arianne's dress, chosen deliberately to capture attention, was a masterpiece of craftsmanship and bold design. The fabric, a rich, deep crimson, clung to her body, leaving little to the imagination. The neckline plunged daringly, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of her ample bosom, while the slit along the side of the dress rose scandalously high, showcasing her long, toned legs with each graceful step she took. The gown was adorned with intricate embroidery, glistening with gold and silver threads, accentuating her curves and adding a touch of regal elegance to the daring ensemble.

His brow furrowed, Aemon regarded her with a mixture of surprise and wariness. "Lady Arianne, how did you get in here? My guards should have never allowed this."

"In Dorne, we Martells are a principality. I am Princess Arianne, your grace, not Lady," she returned flatly.

"Princess Arianne, forgive me. I spent only a year of my life south of the Neck; I do not know as much about Dorne as I would like," he admitted truly. Arianne had heard the King, an honest man, and from what she saw, he could not lie to save his life; his words now were as true as one's words could be.

Arianne, her eyes ablaze with frustration, crossed her arms, her tone carrying a sharp edge. "Your guards proved to be rather accommodating, I must say," she replied, her voice cool and composed despite her evident displeasure. "I've waited nearly a year for this meeting, Your Grace. A betrothal is not a trivial matter to be ignored, and I demand the respect and attention that it deserves."

Aemon sighed, a heavy weight settling on his shoulders. "I apologize if it seemed that I was avoiding you, Lady Arianne," he said, his voice tinged with regret. "The realm has been in turmoil, and my responsibilities as king have kept me occupied."

Arianne's eyes narrowed, her frustration evident. "Responsibilities, yes. But surely a king can find a moment to meet his intended bride? I have traveled a great distance to be here, and I deserve more than an apology and an excuse."

Aemon ran a hand through his dark hair, his expression troubled. "You're right, Princess Arianne. I should have made time to meet you sooner. It was never my intention to make you feel neglected."

Arianne's demeanor softened slightly, her eyes searching his face for sincerity. "I need more than words, Your Grace," she said, her voice gentler now. "I need to know that you are committed to this union, that our marriage will not be a mere formality."

Aemon met her gaze, his eyes earnest. "I am committed to our marriage, Princess Arianne," he said, his voice steady. "I may be inexperienced in matters of the heart, but I understand the gravity of our union. I will do my best to honor our betrothal and the vows we will take."

Arianne studied him for a moment, her gaze assessing. Finally, she nodded, her expression softening. "Very well, Your Grace. I will hold you to your word. But know that I am not a woman to be ignored or taken lightly. Our union will be a partnership of equals, and I expect to be treated with the respect and consideration that I deserve."

Aemon nodded, his determination clear in his eyes. "You have my word. I will do everything in my power to be the husband you deserve. I will need help since I do not know much of Dornish customs."

Arianne Martell's eyes glimmered with a seductive allure as she moved closer to Aemon. She allowed her voice to lower, her words taking on a sultry tone. "Your Grace, perhaps there are some things about Dorne that I could teach you," she purred, her fingers tracing a tantalizing pattern along his arm. "Our ways are... different from those in the North."

Aemon felt the heat of her presence, her proximity sending a shiver down his spine. He was aware of her feminine wiles, the way she seemed to weave a web of desire around him. Yet, he remained steadfast, his honor and integrity keeping him rooted in place.

"Arianne, I cannot," Aemon said firmly, gently but firmly removing her hand from his arm. "I am an honorable man, and I cannot engage in such actions before our marriage. I will not dishonor our betrothal in this way."

Arianne blinked, surprised. It was evident that she was not accustomed to being turned down, especially not by someone as alluring as Aemon. But instead of anger, a spark of something different flickered in her eyes – a newfound respect, perhaps, or a curiosity piqued by the challenge.

She took a step back, her gaze fixed on Jon's eyes. "You truly are something different, Aemon Targaryen. Perhaps the Night's Watch has whipped you into shape more fiercely than I thought," she said, her voice tinged with a mix of admiration and something else, something akin to intrigue. "It's a rare quality in a man. Most would have yielded to temptation without a second thought."

Aemon met her gaze, his expression unwavering. "I may be a king, but I am also a man of my word. I will not betray our vows before they are made."

Arianne smiled a slow, genuine smile that seemed to reveal a depth of character beyond her seductive facade. "I like a man who can resist," she admitted, her tone suggestive. "It seems I have found a worthy challenge in you, Jon Snow."

With that, she turned away, her walk a graceful sway of hips that seemed to echo her confidence. Aemon watched her go, his thoughts a whirlwind of emotions. He knew that Arianne Martell was not to be taken lightly, that her allure was as dangerous as it was captivating.

The final memory he saw was of years later, after he was married to the two women.

Aemon sat in front of the fireplace, Longclaw, his ancestral Valyrian steel sword, gleaming in his hands as he meticulously cleaned its blade. His eyes were fixed on the flickering flames, his thoughts lost in the depths of his own musings. The warmth of the fire did little to chase away the chill that seemed to permeate his very bones.

Unbeknownst to him, Margery Tyrell and Arianne Martell, his wives, approached him from behind, their footsteps barely making a sound on the soft rugs of the chamber. They exchanged mischievous glances, silently agreeing to tease their husband out of his brooding state.

Margery, with her usual grace, was the first to speak, her voice light and teasing. "Ah, the King of the Seven Kingdoms, deep in thought once again," she quipped, her hand gently resting on Aemon's shoulder. Margery, her eyes sparkling with amusem*nt, spoke first. "My love, are you brooding again?" she asked, her voice a playful melody. "I thought we agreed that there would be no more brooding after our marriage."

Aemon started at her touch, nearly dropping the sword, and turned to look at her with a mix of surprise and amusem*nt. "I do not brood," he protested, though a hint of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

Arianne, equally playful, joined in, leaning in close to Jon on his other side. "He's right, Margery. Aemon doesn't brood. He...contemplates."

Aemon's smile grew, his eyes meeting Arianne's. "Contemplating is a noble pursuit," he replied, his voice filled with warmth.

Margery tilted her head and cast an appreciative gaze at her husband. "It's true, Aemon, you have a way of making even brooding look rather...dashing."

Arianne, her lips curving into a sly smile, chimed in, "Yes, but brooding is quite unbecoming for a king. Perhaps we should find a way to distract you from such dark thoughts."

Aemon looked up, his brows furrowing as he attempted to defend himself as he cleaned his blade. "I don't brood," he protested, his voice earnest. "I'm just... thinking."

Arianne moved to the other side, her touch just as gentle as she brushed a strand of hair away from Aemon's face. "Perhaps we can help you forget whatever troubles your mind," she suggested, her voice low and seductive.

Aemon cleared his throat, his cheeks flushing slightly under the combined scrutiny of his wives. "I appreciate your concern, but I don't need distractions," he said, his attempt at seriousness faltering under their teasing gazes.

Margery leaned in closer, her lips hovering near Aemon's ear. "Are you sure about that, Your Grace?" she whispered, her warm breath sending a shiver down his spine.

Arianne's fingers danced along Aemon's arm, her touch leaving a trail of heat in its wake. "We could make you forget all about your worries," she added, her voice a sultry invitation.

Aemon swallowed hard, his resolve weakening as he felt their proximity, their flirtatious energy enveloping him. "I... um, maybe a small distraction wouldn't hurt," he admitted, his voice betraying his uncertainty.

Margery and Arianne shared a triumphant glance before simultaneously pressing a soft kiss to either side of Jon's neck, their lips warm against his skin. Their laughter mingled with his surprised gasp, and in that moment, Jon found himself swept away by the playful affection of his wives.

The laughter of their children echoed through the chamber, and before Margery, Arianne, and Aemon could continue their playful banter, the door burst open, and their thirteen children tumbled into the room. The children bore a striking resemblance to their Valyrian heritage, with silvery-blonde hair and the legendary purple eyes of the Targaryens. Even if Aemon looked like his father and took after the Starks, Aemon was the only Valyrian-blooded person for miles, and his children had his Valyrian blood strong in their veins.

The sight of their offspring, so full of life and energy, brought smiles to their parents' faces. The children, ranging in age from the eldest to the youngest, raced around the room, their laughter a joyful cacophony that filled the air.

The room was a vibrant scene of family, love, and happiness. Baby dragons, the offspring of Rhaegal, circled above the children, their wings shimmering with different colors and intricate patterns. Each dragon was unique in appearance and personality, a testament to the bond between dragon and rider.

Aemon, his earlier brooding forgotten, watched with a sense of wonder as the children and dragons played together. His own dragon, Rhaegal, hovered protectively near the keep, a watchful guardian to the new generation of dragon riders as Aemon was often stuck inside the castle.

Margery grinned, her eyes twinkling with affection. "My, my, it seems our little ones are having quite the time," she said, her voice filled with amusem*nt.

Arianne's lips curved into a smile as she watched their children, her heart swelling with love. She wished to be angry at them; they had stopped her for the nightly return of taking her husband to bed, but one of the dragons popped by her head and flew back down to the children as they tried to catch one in a game of tag. "We told you not to let them free at this hour of the night," she added, her voice softening at the sight of the tiny creatures that flew around the room, their scales shimmering in a myriad of colors.

The eldest of their children, a tall and elegant girl, six years of age, with a crown of braided hair, stepped forward, her purple eyes almost dark enough to mirror Aemon's own. "Father, Mother, we were training with the dragons," she said, her voice bubbling with excitement. "They're getting stronger every day!"

Margery ruffled the girl's hair affectionately, her smile tender. "I'm sure you all did wonderfully, Alyssa," she said, her gaze sweeping over her children with maternal pride.

Arianne knelt down to the youngest of the brood, a curious little boy with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "And what were you doing with the dragons, Aenys?" she asked, her tone playful.

The boy grinned, his tiny hands gesturing animatedly. "I was playing catch with Ember, Mama! She's the fastest one!"

Aemon couldn't help but chuckle at his son's enthusiasm, his heart swelling with love for his family. "Well, it sounds like you had quite the adventure," he said, his eyes meeting those of his wives, gratitude and love shining in their depths.

Rhaegar, Jon's eldest son and heir, his eldest child with Arianne, now five years of age, approached his father with eager eyes, his youthful energy practically radiating. He tugged at Aemon's sleeve, his voice filled with anticipation. "Kepa, when can I ride my own dragon? Snowfyre is too big to fit in the castle."

Aemon smiled down at his son, his hand ruffling the boy's silvery hair. "One day, Rhaegar, you will," he said reassuringly. "But you need to be patient and learn how to care for them first. It's a big responsibility. They aren't just some horses you could ride; they are fire-made flesh, and they are far stronger and faster. You must understand before you ride them."

Rhaegar nodded, a determined expression on his young face. "I'll be the best dragon rider, just like you, Kepa."

Before Aemon could respond, his daughter Lyanna, the same age as Rhaegar and betrothed to him, his eldest daughter with Margery, chimed in with a pout. "Rhaegar promised we'd go on our first dragon ride together," she protested, her eyes narrowing in accusation.

Rhaegar turned to his betrothed, a sheepish smile on his face. "I did promise, didn't I?"

Lyanna's expression softened as she playfully nudged Rhaegar. "You did. And I've been waiting for it."

Aemon chuckled at their exchange, his affection for his children evident. "Well, it seems we'll need to plan a dragon ride for both of you soon," he said, his tone indulgent. "But you'll have to be patient a little longer."

Aemon would now rest; he would welcome the darkness and see his family once more. He just prayed to whatever god was listening that his family knew that the reason he took so long was to make sure their deaths weren't in vain. He prayed they could forgive him for taking so long.

In the mere seconds following his death, Aemon found himself in a state of bewildering confusion. It was not his first encounter with death; he had faced it bravely before, most notably at the hands of the Night's Watch, only to be resurrected by the mystical powers of Melisandre. However, this time, the experience was vastly different. He had welcomed death and prepared himself for its icy embrace, but what he was feeling now was unlike anything he had ever imagined.

As his consciousness slipped away, Aemon felt his body being consumed by an overwhelming darkness. It was as if he was being swallowed by an abyss, his senses numbed, and his awareness shrouded in an impenetrable void. He was aware of the absence of sensation, his body feeling weightless yet confined as if it was being forced into the fetal position against his will.

Desperation gripped him as he tried to make sense of his surroundings. He attempted to open his eyes, but they remained stubbornly shut as if glued together by some unseen force. Panic welled up within him, and he attempted to draw a breath, but his lungs refused to cooperate. He felt intense pressure, as if an invisible hand was crushing the air out of him, leaving him gasping for something that would not come.

Time lost its meaning in this disorienting void. Seconds stretched into eternity, and Jon's mind grappled with the paradox of existence and non-existence. Memories of his past life flashed before his eyes – the faces of the people he loved, the battles he had fought, the oaths he had sworn. Yet, these memories felt distant, as if they belonged to someone else, a person who no longer existed. It was as if he had only known of it from reading a book with all this knowledge, a book of extreme detail, but he had not experienced the book's event himself.

In the midst of his disorienting and suffocating ordeal, Aemon suddenly experienced a profound shift. The wetness enveloped him, and the cacophony of sounds filled his ears. He could discern the echoing cries, the chatter, and the soft murmurs that surrounded him. It was as if he was caught in a maelstrom of sensations and emotions, and the world outside seemed to be closing in on him, squeezing him from all sides.

The pressure intensified, and he felt himself being forcibly propelled through an unseen passage. In an instant, the oppressive darkness began to recede, giving way to a blinding, radiant light. The intensity of the light was almost unbearable, but amidst the brilliance, Aemon felt an inexplicable sense of peace and serenity. As his awareness expanded, he realized he was no longer trapped in the void; he was being born anew.

The sensation of movement enveloped him as he was propelled forward, emerging from the confines of his previous existence. With each passing moment, the light grew brighter, washing away the remnants of his past life and cleansing him of the darkness that had consumed him moments ago. He felt weightless and pure, unburdened by the complexities of the world he had known. As his eyes struggled to adjust to this newfound brilliance, Aemon's confusion gave way to awe as he saw several people running around a small room.

Amidst the newness of his existence, Aemon felt an overwhelming sense of confusion and bewilderment. His consciousness, once burdened with the memories of his past life, was now that of an innocent infant, unable to comprehend the complexities of the world around him, at least it should have been, but his thoughts were plagued with the life had just left. Was he not the last living person? Were these survivors of the Night King?

He was utterly perplexed. Why was he small? Why was he born once more? Why was he a baby, unable to articulate the questions swirling in his infant mind? The faces around him were unfamiliar, caring, yet unknown. He longed to voice his confusion, to ask why this rebirth had occurred, but all that escaped his tiny mouth were cries – cries that seemed to echo the depths of his confusion and fear.

The adults attending to the birth, seasoned and experienced, continued their work, their faces etched with a mix of concentration and tenderness. Oblivious to Jon's inner turmoil, they checked the newborn baby boy, ensuring his health and safety in those precious first moments of life.

As Aemon's cries filled the air, he felt a profound sense of vulnerability, a realization of his newfound dependence on others. The world, once familiar yet now utterly alien, seemed vast and overwhelming. He was left to grapple with the enigma of his existence in the only way he knew how – through the primal language of cries and tears.

Amidst the cries of the newborn baby, the maester proclaimed, "It's a boy," his voice echoing through the chamber. He carefully handed the baby to the mother, whose dark black locks framed her pale face and steel-grey eyes. She looked young, far too young to be a mother in Aemon's eyes. She was about the age Aemon was when he joined the Wall, and a woman that young birthing a child was more likely to perish due to the birth. The maester, a wise and experienced balding elder of a man, received a warm smile from the mother.

"Thank you, Grand Maester Allar," she said, her voice soft yet filled with gratitude.

As Aemon lay in his mother's arms, he tried to make sense of the world around him. His eyes, still adjusting to the light, scanned the chamber, taking in the intricate tapestries and ornate furnishings. He felt a strange familiarity with his surroundings, a knowing that he was in the Red Keep, but it had been destroyed. The Night King had ridden upon the undead Drogon and laid waste to all of King's Landing; the Red Keep was nothing but ruins.

Grand Maester Allar, a figure of authority and knowledge, approached the woman with a gentle smile. "Congratulations, Princess Lyanna. He's a healthy and strong boy," he said, his voice filled with genuine joy.

'Lyanna! Steel gray eyes like the storms in the North. Black hair in curls. Long Stark face. The woman was more beautiful than most. Lyanna Stark! I am being birthed by my birth mother once more!' he thought to himself.

Aemon's confusion deepened as he realized the inconsistencies in his surroundings. The familiarity he had felt with the Red Keep was shattered by the realization that he should not have been born here. His memories, now fragmented and muddled, clashed with the reality unfolding before him. He was born in the Tower of Joy.

As he lay in Lyanna Stark's arms, he struggled to make sense of the situation. She looked tired, sweaty, and haggard as she breathed with heavy breaths. 'But this can't be right,' he thought, his baby mind unable to articulate the words. He tried to recall the Tower of Joy, the whispers of the past, but the memories slipped away like sand through his fingers.

The name Grand Maester Allar echoed in his ears, but it did not align with the history he remembered. Pycelle was the Grand Maester during Aerys' rule, during the time of Aemon's birth. The pieces of the puzzle refused to fit together, leaving Aemon in a state of profound disorientation.

Lyanna looked down at Aemon, her newborn son, her eyes filled with a mixture of love and wonder. "He's beautiful," she whispered, her fingers gently brushing against Aemon's tiny cheek.

As he stared up at Lyanna's face, he saw a mix of emotions – love, concern, and unspoken sadness. He longed to ask her about the inconsistencies, to understand why his past and present seemed to be entwined in a confusing web of contradictions. But all he could do was gaze at her, his eyes searching for answers that remained out of reach. The woman was shriveled, sick, sweating, tired, and red in the face.

As a man with silver-blonde hair burst into the room, his Valyrian features immediately captured Aemon's attention. High cheekbones, ethereal beauty, and an aura of regality marked him unmistakably as a Targaryen. His body is tall, lean, and strong; he is a warrior, and his body and his movements are proof of it. He was handsome, clean-shaven, and had long hair partially pulled back. His eyes, a shade of deep violet, held a mixture of relief and satisfaction as he inquired, "Lyanna, are you alright?"

Lyanna, still cradling Aemon in her arms, managed a weak but reassuring smile. "I'm fine," she replied, her voice steady despite the ordeal of childbirth, "meet our son."

The Targaryen man's smile widened at the sight of the baby in Lyanna's arms. His eyes, so similar to Aemon's, softened with a mix of paternal pride and affection. Aemon observed the intricate black and red jerkin worn by the man, adorned with the colors of the Targaryen family – a sight that further solidified his realization that he was in the presence of a member of House Targaryen.

Aemon's tiny fingers clenched and unclenched, his infantile mind trying to process the significance of the moment. He didn't yet understand the implications of his parentage, but he could sense the gravity of the situation.

As the Targaryen man approached them, he reached out to gently touch Aemon's cheek. His touch, though unfamiliar, felt strangely comforting. Aemon stared up at him, his wide eyes reflecting the mystery of his own existence and the enigma of the world he had been born into.

Grand Maester Allar, with his quill poised above parchment, addressed Daemon Targaryen, his voice respectful yet inquisitive. "And what shall be the name of your new son, Prince Daemon."

Aemon thought of the prince. Prince Daemon Targaryen, the name Grand Maester Allar, there were three eras in Targaryen history Aemon knew more than any other. The conquest of Dorne by Daeron the Young Dragon, the Blackfyre Rebellions, but more than any other, the Dance of Dragons. He had dreaded it over and over again to ensure he avoided the event before Night King returned. He had made sure the blood of Martells and Tyrells, from his children, married one another to ensure House Targaryen had not divided itself as it did in the Dance. He had read the accounts after the events, during, and before. It took some time, but the name Grand Maester Allar was the second to last Grand Maester at the end of Jaehaerys', the Old King, reign, and he called the prince, Daemon, the King Viserys' brother. This man, his father, was the Rouge Prince.

Daemon Targaryen, his gaze still fixed on the baby in Lyanna's arms, hesitated for a moment before speaking. "His name shall be Prince Aemon Targaryen, after Caraxes' first rider," he declared, his voice carrying the weight of a decision made long before this moment. "

Chapter 2: Old Dragon, New Life

Summary:

King I Jaehaerys welcomes a new great-grandson into his line and must publicly deal with the death of the late Lady Lyanna Stark and acknowledge the son she left behind for her husband, Prince Daemon Targaryen, to raise, even after the misgivings of their union, and the political headaches they make for him.

Notes:

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Chapter Text

Red Keep 97 AC

Jaehaerys Targaryen

Jaehaerys I Targaryen, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, the Conciliator, had been king for nearly fifty years, and it was moments like these that he was most tired. He had survived much, done much, created much, and achieved much, and yet it was always his own flesh and blood that forced him into situations that made him wish to relinquish his crown and go with Vermithor to a distant land, away from it all.

In the annals of Westerosi history, King Jaehaerys I Targaryen stood as a beacon of wisdom and stability. Nearly fifty years had passed since he ascended the Iron Throne, and under his rule, the Seven Kingdoms experienced a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity. Many hailed him as the greatest of Targaryen kings, a title he wore with humility and grace, but he did not fully embrace it because there were only three before him.

Born in the shadow of a weak father, King Aneys, and overshadowed by the conqueror Aegon and the cruel Maegor, Jaehaerys had managed to carve out his legacy. He was not the first Targaryen king, nor the one who forged the realms into one, but he was, undoubtedly, the one who solidified their power and earned the respect of his subjects. His reign was marked by diplomacy and conciliation, earning him the moniker "the Conciliator." He concentrated the Targaryen rule and centralized the powers of the realm towards the Red Keep, the seat of his family. He built the roads that connected the Seven Kingdoms, bringing the Seven Kingdoms from seven separate entities to one empire under Targaryen rule. He also showed future threats that the crown could send soldiers at a faster pace to eliminate said threats.

Jaehaerys I Targaryen, though born into a family of dragons and power, carried the weight of his father's indecisiveness as a heavy burden. Aenys I Targaryen's inability to assert himself, particularly concerning Jaehaerys' elder siblings Aegon and Rhaea, left a bitter taste in the young prince's mouth. He watched with growing disdain as his father vacillated on matters of crucial importance, most notably the delicate issue of his siblings' wedding.

The uncertain stance taken by King Aenys led to unrest, and in 41 AC, the Faith Militant rose in rebellion against the crown. The realm, already teetering on the edge of instability, was further plunged into chaos. During these tumultuous times, Aenys met his end on Dragonstone early the following year. His demise left a power vacuum and a realm in disarray, providing the perfect opportunity for Maegor Targaryen to return from exile.

Jaehaerys I Targaryen harbored a deep-seated hatred for his grand-aunt Visenya and his uncle Maegor, a hatred that stemmed from their treacherous ways and the havoc they wreaked upon the realm. Despite the rightful claim of his elder brother Aegon to the Iron Throne, Maegor, driven by ambition and ruthlessness, seized power immediately upon his return. He beheaded Gawen, the Grand Maester who had affirmed Aegon's rightful claim to the throne, a gruesome act that foreshadowed the dark times ahead. The rebellion against Maegor's rule escalated, culminating in the Battle Beneath the Gods Eye, a clash that would forever alter the course of history.

In the midst of this brutal conflict, Maegor's actions were marked by a chilling disregard for the established order. The battle reached its tragic climax when Maegor confronted Aegon and his dragon, Quicksilver. In a harrowing clash, Maegor's ruthlessness prevailed, leading to the demise of Aegon and the dragon he rode. With this victory, Maegor asserted his dominance and took Jaehaerys, his sister-wife Alysanne, and his mother hostage on Dragonstone.

Maegor, after waking from a coma from the battle, displayed his cruelty by mounting his fearsome dragon Balerion and unleashing destruction upon Rhaenys' Hill. The burning of the Sept of Remembrance served as a symbolic gesture, a stark reminder to the world that Rhaenys' line would not be spared.

The completion of the Red Keep in 45 AC marked a gruesome chapter in the reign of Maegor the Cruel. The grand celebration the king threw turned into a macabre display of his sad*stic nature. Workers and artisans who had contributed to the castle's construction were lured into a false sense of revelry, indulging in wine, sweetmeats, and the company of courtesans from the city's finest brothels. Little did they know that their participation in the feast would lead to their untimely demise.

After three days of seemingly endless festivities, Maegor, in a cruel and calculated move, ordered the massacre of all those in attendance. His motive was clear: to protect the secrets of the castle, he silenced every witness, ensuring that none would reveal the intricacies of the Red Keep's design. The bodies of the victims were callously interred beneath the very foundation they had helped create, their final resting place a grim testament to the depths of Maegor's brutality.

During this dark period, Jaehaerys, with his sister and mother, managed to escape Dragonstone, leaving behind the horrors of their captivity. However, the escape did not come without a devastating cost. Maegor, in his relentless pursuit of power, subjected Jaehaerys' brother to unspeakable torture, ultimately leading to his death. The loss of his sibling filled Jaehaerys' heart with a burning hatred for his cruel uncle. In the depths of his despair, he prayed fervently, hoping that those responsible for the agony inflicted upon his family would suffer eternal torment in the deepest pits of the seven hells. The young prince's resolve grew stronger as he carried the weight of his family's tragedy, vowing to one day bring justice to those who had committed such heinous acts.

He wished to be a great king both to surpass Visneya and Maegor and from pure spite because he wished for the realm to prosper. Under his wise rule, the realm thrived. Jaehaerys understood the complexities of the Seven Kingdoms, navigating the intricate web of noble alliances and regional differences with finesse. He was a just and fair ruler, renowned for his ability to listen to the grievances of his people and address them with a measured hand. His court was a haven of intellect and culture, attracting scholars, artists, and thinkers from all corners of the realm.

In the face of his predecessors' shortcomings, Jaehaerys became a symbol of hope and unity. He mended the wounds left by the divisive rule of Maegor the Cruel, healing the scars of rebellion and unrest from the Faith and the lack of strength from his father. His commitment to justice and fairness earned him the loyalty of his subjects, and his legacy endured long after his passing.

And now, Jaehaerys I Targaryen, weary from the burdens of ruling a realm plagued by strife and treachery, found himself facing yet another challenge within his own family. The marriage alliance he had carefully orchestrated for Daemon, his ambitious grandson, was a decision made with deliberate intent. After the passing of Aemon, Jaehaerys' son and heir, Jaehaerys carefully laid plans for the succession hinged on Baelon, his second eldest living son and heir, and Baelon's own son, Viserys.

Daemon, as the second son of a second son, had no legitimate claim to inherit the throne. However, his insatiable ambition posed a threat to the stability Jaehaerys had fought so hard to maintain. Daemon's impending marriage to Rhea Royce was a calculated move by Jaehaerys, an attempt to curb the young man's ambitions and channel his energies in a direction that would not disrupt the line of succession.

Despite the weariness that weighed heavily upon him, Jaehaerys was resolute in his decision. He knew he could not allow Daemon to use his elder brother Viserys as a pawn in a bid for the throne. The stability of the realm depended on the careful preservation of the Targaryen lineage, and Jaehaerys was determined to safeguard the future of his family and his realm, even if it meant making difficult and heart-wrenching decisions. In the face of his own exhaustion, he remained steadfast, prepared to do whatever was necessary to maintain the fragile peace he had fought so hard to achieve.

Jaehaerys I Targaryen's strategic thinking and keen understanding of the delicate balance of power within the realm were evident in his choice of match for Daemon. The lessons from the past, particularly the bloody reign of Maegor the Cruel, weighed heavily on Jaehaerys' mind. He was determined to prevent history from repeating itself, to ensure that Daemon did not follow the path of his infamous uncle, who had seized the throne through force and violence.

By selecting Rhae Royce as Daemon's bride, Jaehaerys pursued a twofold strategy. Firstly, he chose a woman whom some maesters had speculated was barren, ensuring that Daemon would have no legitimate heirs to bolster any future claims to the throne. Without offspring to legitimize his ambitions, Daemon's potential as a threat to the established Targaryen line was significantly diminished.

Secondly, Jaehaerys leveraged the political alliances within the realm to further strengthen his position. House Royce, being a vassal of House Arryn, was tied to the power and influence of the Arryns. Viserys, Jaehaerys' elder grandson, Viserys, had married into the Arryn family by wedding Aemma Arryn. This union solidified connections between the Targaryens, the Arryns, and, indirectly, House Royce.

By ensuring Daemon's lack of heirs and limiting his political support, Jaehaerys effectively neutralized any potential threat his ambitious grandson might pose in the future. It was a calculated move, born out of a desire to safeguard the realm from internal strife and to maintain the hard-won peace that had eluded Westeros for so long. In these careful maneuvers, Jaehaerys displayed not only his political acumen but also his commitment to securing the stability and unity of the realm he ruled.

Jaehaerys did not agree with his son on this, for the most part. However, Baelon wished to throw a tourney at the beginning of the year to celebrate Daemon's betrothal. It could, in truth, help unify the realm and grow better relations with each of the kingdoms if each of the Houses were invited.

The Tourney of King's Landing in the year 97 AC was destined to be remembered as a grand spectacle, the likes of which the realm had never witnessed before. Baelon Targaryen, the heir to the Iron Throne, had organized the event to celebrate his son Daemon's betrothal to Rhae Royce. It was a union that carried significant political weight, and Baelon, recognizing the importance of the occasion, spared no expense in its commemoration.

Held within the walls of King's Landing, the tourney boasted a scale and extravagance that left the realm in awe. Every corner of the Seven Kingdoms was represented as noble houses from the North to the Reach, and from the Stormlands to Westerlands and Riverlands, even the Ironborn converged upon the capital. The jousting fields were a vibrant tapestry of colors, with knights and lords adorned in their house sigils, competing for honor and glory.

The festivities were lavish beyond measure, with feasts that seemed to stretch on for days and a display of pageantry and chivalry that enchanted the spectators. The sheer magnitude of gold spent on the event drew gasps of disbelief, even from the royal court. The Master of Coin, tasked with managing the realm's finances, shook his head in amazement, lamenting that the funds expended on the tourney could have erected three entire castles.

The tourney was like nothing seen before; all the best knights in the kingdoms came together to compete. Yes, the knights had tourneys in their respective kingdoms where all the houses of the single kingdom came together, with a few knights from other kingdoms as well. But this tourney had all the kingdoms under Targaryen rule come as one; never had all the best knights come to the face like this. The streets of Silk and Steal had never been so full. In fact, the number of participants and people entering the tourney and the city, buying this and that, had been so much that the crown had made back their investment thrice-fold, and no one had ever made money off of a tourney before, especially since the cost for it was so high. Jaehaerys thought it was proof his son Baelon, the orchestrator of all this, may have a bright future on the Iron Throne. Daemon, seeing as the number of knights in the tilts and the caliber of opponents was in his honor, and seeing the knights in the tilts, made sure to enlist.

There was one figure who stood out among the rest - Lyanna Stark, the eldest daughter of Rickard Stark, Lord of Winterfell. With an ethereal beauty that seemed to capture the very essence of the North, she turned heads wherever she went, her presence commanding attention and admiration.

Never before had he beheld a woman outside of the Valyrian bloodline who possessed such a captivating allure. Her eyes, as gray as the storms that ravaged the northern skies, held a mysterious depth, and her hair, dark as the shadows of the ancient weirwoods, cascaded in loose waves down her back. In the presence of this northern enchantress, even the most composed lords found themselves entranced.

Amidst the fervor of proposals and requests, Lyanna moved through the tourney grounds with a grace that matched her beauty. She smiled politely, her eyes betraying none of the emotions that stirred within the hearts of those who beheld her. From what he gathered, the lady was kind, but from tales from the North, she rode horses and bested even the best of men when she used a blade. They say she acted like a Northern woman through and through, similar to the Mormont n Bear Island, and Jaehaerys had heard many tales of the women who fought in battle and bested men with ease.

It was not just the king who found himself captivated by Lyanna Stark's beauty. Many of the lords in attendance were equally smitten, their hearts stirred by the sight of this northern maiden. As whispers of her loveliness spread through the crowds, infatuations bloomed like wildflowers in spring. Lords and knights, both young and old, approached King Jaehaerys and Lord Rickard Stark, inquiring about the possibility of betrothals to win Lyanna's hand. The future lords of the realm vied for her favor, their aspirations reflected in the gleam of their eyes and the earnestness of their gestures.

As whispers of potential betrothals for Lyanna Stark circulated among the lords, Lord Rickard Stark remained steadfast in his decisions, dismissing each proposal that came his way. However, there was one lord who managed to secure a betrothal, and that was Lord Grover Tully. The match he had arranged between his grandson Elmo Tully and Lyanna Stark seemed to be an astute move, strategically speaking.

In truth, the Tullys had secured an advantageous match. The Riverlands, despite their abundance of powerful lords, lacked the unity and control that the Starks held over the North. The Tullys struggled to consolidate power within their own region. The Tully's vassal lords were strong, and some could potentially, with several marriages into the kingdom, could usurp the Tullys. In contrast, the Starks were known for their centralized authority, ensuring a level of stability and unity that few other houses could boast. If the Starks could aid the Tully in centralizing their powers, it would be a dangerous prospect for those who want to fight the Tully in the future.

The prospect of a union between House Stark and House Tully raised concerns in the mind of King Jaehaerys. Such an alliance would bring together two formidable forces. The thoughts of other major Houses marrying one another and marrying into this already established alliance creating a power block that could potentially rival the authority of the crown. The thought of the North, with its martial prowess, joining forces with the Riverlands, rich in resources and strategic advantages, was enough to unsettle the king.

A young lord from Greywater Watch had run into some problem or other during the beginning of the tilts somewhere in the North. If Jaehaerys recalled correctly, he did not know as much about the North as he would have liked due to them preferring isolation compared to the other kingdoms vying for more connections with House Targaryen. The young lord found himself the target of bullying by the squires of powerful lords attending the tournament: Ser Hightower, Ser Redwyne, and Prince Baelon Targaryen's squires. Distressed and desperate for justice, the young lord's plight resonated with the onlookers.

In response to this injustice, a mysterious figure emerged – the Knight of the Laughing Tree. Clad in mismatched armor and bearing a shield adorned with a laughing weirwood tree sigil, this enigmatic knight entered the tournament lists. With a spirit as fierce as their identity was concealed, the Knight of the Laughing Tree challenged and defeated the three arrogant squires who had tormented the young Lord of Greywater.

The identity of the Knight of the Laughing Tree remained a secret, shrouded in mystery. Some speculated on the true origin of this valiant and masked champion, but their anonymity only added to the mystique of the tale. The knight's actions became a symbol of justice and courage, inspiring hope among the smallfolk and earning the admiration of the nobility. They had ridden on horseback better than any man Jaehaerys had seen before; it was as though the person was half horse themselves. Never had someone ridden so well; the only other person that rode their mount as if they were one, even if the mount was not a horse, to Jaehaerys knowledge, was Aegon the Dragon himself upon, the still yet to be claimed once more, Baelrion the Black Dread. It was with the same skill that the knight fled deep into the King's Wood.

Daemon's desire to face the mysterious Knight of the Laughing Tree burned with a fierce intensity. Eager to confront the valiant figure who had championed the cause of justice, he mounted his horse and galloped into the depths of the King's Wood in pursuit. The forest, ancient and dense, swallowed both the knight and his determined pursuer in its labyrinthine expanse.

As the day wore on, Daemon's search led him deeper into the heart of the woods. The rustle of leaves, the distant calls of birds, and the murmur of a hidden stream became the backdrop to his relentless quest. Hours turned into what felt like an eternity, but his determination did not waver.

When Daemon finally emerged from the depths of the King's Wood, he returned not with the mysterious knight but with a tangible relic of their encounter – the knight's shield. Adorned with the laughing weirwood tree sigil, it became a symbol of both mystery and inspiration, a reminder of the enigmatic figure who had stood against injustice and captured the hearts of the people.

Daemon's victory in the tournament was nothing short of spectacular; his skills in the jousts earned him a well-deserved reputation as a formidable competitor. As tradition dictated, the winner of the tournament was to crown the Queen of Love and Beauty, typically the lady to whom he was betrothed or his future wife, Rhae Royce. However, on this occasion, Daemon chose to defy convention.

Instead of presenting the crown of Winter Roses, a striking deep blue, to his intended bride, Rhae Royce, Daemon veered away from her, his eyes set on a different beauty. His gaze found its mark in the North, where the enchanting Lyanna Stark stood, her aura as captivating as the frozen beauty of winter itself. In a bold and unexpected move, Daemon approached Lyanna and placed the crown upon her head, proclaiming her the Queen of Love and Beauty. The crowd watched in stunned silence, their astonishment giving way to murmurs of speculation.

This act of defiance against tradition and the unexpected choice of Lyanna Stark as the Queen of Love and Beauty created ripples of intrigue and gossip throughout the realm. Daemon's bold declaration of affection for the Northern beauty would be remembered as one of the most important moments in the history of Westerosi tournaments, a tale that would be retold in hushed whispers and romantic ballads for generations to come.

The bold act of Daemon Targaryen, crowning Lyanna Stark as the Queen of Love and Beauty, set off a chain of events that threatened to plunge the realm into chaos. Rickon Stark, the Lord of Winterfell, was consumed by rage over the perceived slight against his house, and House Royce, too, demanded justice for what they saw as a grievous offense. House Tully, whom Lyanna was set to marry for an alliance, whose alliance with House Stark had been shaken, seethed with anger and resentment over the perceived slight.

King Jaehaerys I and Crown Prince Baelon found themselves in an unenviable position trying to maintain peace and order amidst the brewing storm. Their efforts to quell the tensions between the offended parties seemed futile as the realm braced for the inevitable clash.

However, the situation took an unexpected turn when both Lyanna Stark and Daemon Targaryen vanished without a trace. The disappearance of the controversial pair sent shockwaves throughout the Seven Kingdoms. Rumors and speculations ran rampant, and no one knew for certain where they had gone or what fate had befallen them.

The mystery of Lyanna and Daemon's disappearance left the realm in a state of uncertainty and confusion. As whispers of their love story spread, opinions varied widely, with some romanticizing their union and others condemning it as reckless and dangerous.

The speculation surrounding Daemon's involvement in Lyanna Stark's disappearance only intensified the fury of Houses Royce, Tully, and House Stark. With their anger boiling over, they demanded the return of the rogue prince, seeking retribution for the perceived affront to their houses. King Jaehaerys, recognizing the gravity of the situation, issued a decree: his son, Crown Prince Baelon, was to find Daemon and bring him back to face justice.

Mounted upon his formidable dragon, Vhagar, Crown Prince Baelon took to the skies, his eyes scanning the vast expanse of Westeros for any sign of his wayward son. His mission was clear: to locate Daemon and Lyanna and ensure their safe return, sparing the realm from further escalation of tensions and potential conflict.

Meanwhile, Viserys, the elder brother, embarked on his own quest. Determined to assist in the search for Daemon, he rode atop his dragon, Sheep Stealer, a swift and powerful creature capable of covering great distances. Viserys shared his brother's determination to find Daemon and bring him back, hoping to prevent further damage to the fragile peace of the realm.

When Crown Prince Baelon finally found Daemon, his son, a fortnight later, the scene that unfolded was one of unexpected consequence. Deep within the Isle of Faces, amidst the ancient weirwood trees, Daemon and Lyanna had chosen to solemnize their union. They had not only married according to the old gods, the deities revered by the First Men and the North, but had also exchanged vows in the Faith of the Seven, marking a rare dual marriage that cemented their marriage, especially since Daemon and Lyanna already consummated it.

The discovery of Daemon and Lyanna's marriage left King Jaehaerys torn between his duties as a ruler and his personal feelings as a grandfather. He recalled his son, Baelon, who was filled with a mix of anger, disappointment, and perhaps a hint of sympathy for his son's impulsive actions; Baelon had done impulsive things for his own late wife. Daemon was forced back to court and face the crown. Baelon said to Jaehaerys that when he had landed on the island, Daemon had been resting, and Lyanna was awake and close by. When she saw Baelon, she grabbed Dark Sister and prepared to battle the crown prince herself. Daemon had risen from his slumber, but before anyone could deescalate the situation, Lyanna went to attack, and while Baelon was a fair fighter, he was disarmed by the girl a head and a half shorter than he and was at the mercy of Dark Sister near his throat. Daemon had to convince Lyanna to lower the blade; Daemon, being the voice of reason, was a first to the old king, and truth, if he had to be the voice of reason for the pair, Jaehaerys feared for the realm as the two were now one.

The ramifications of this unconventional marriage reverberated through the realm, further straining the delicate balance of power between the noble houses.

Despite the political implications and potential for conflict, Daemon's decision to wed Lyanna was frankly a pain and a political headache for the Old King. As rumors of their unconventional marriage spread, the realm remained on edge, unsure how to react to this audacious defiance of tradition. Once before the court, Daemon and Lyanna spun a tale that, rather than paint Daemon in a crude light, made them both the pariahs and endeared them to the women of the court, a love story that Jaehaerys would bet his very crown that the bards would be singing far after the death of not just his heir but the one to follow him, Viserys, as well.

The truth behind Lyanna Stark's disappearance unveiled a different narrative, one in which Lyanna herself orchestrated her departure with Daemon Targaryen. Fueled by a fierce determination to escape an arranged marriage with Elmo Tully, Lyanna had engaged in secret conversations with Daemon from the very beginning of the tourney. Their clandestine meetings had allowed a bond to form between them, a connection rooted in mutual understanding and a shared desire for freedom.

As the days of the tourney passed, Lyanna and Daemon's resolve solidified. Faced with the prospect of marriages they did not desire, they chose to elope, seeking refuge in each other's arms. Lyanna's persuasive spirit and Daemon's willingness to defy convention led them to make the daring decision to escape together.

King Jaehaerys I Targaryen found himself faced with the daunting task of mending the alliances that had been frayed by the events surrounding Daemon and Lyanna. With the Tully-Stark alliance shattered and tensions high between House Royce and the crown, Jaehaerys knew that he needed to act swiftly and decisively to restore stability to the realm.

In a masterful display of diplomacy, Jaehaerys orchestrated a betrothal between House Royce and a branch house of House Arryn, mending the strained relationship. With the assistance of his grandson Viserys' wife, Aemma Arryn, Jaehaerys was able to facilitate this union, ensuring House Royce's loyalty and support. The union between Royce and Arryn would help solidify Arryn's control of house Royce and, in turn, help ensure the Royces would be loyal to the crown, which had a marriage alliance with their Lord Paramount.

Additionally, Jaehaerys brokered a strategic betrothal between House Tully and House Frey. Recognizing the numerous daughters of House Frey, Jaehaerys saw an opportunity to strengthen the Tullys' position within the Riverlands. By encouraging the Freys, who are tied to the Tullys, to marry into various noble families in the region, Jaehaerys aimed to centralize power under Tully rule, creating a network of alliances that would solidify their influence over the Riverlands, similarly to what would have happened with the aid of the Starks, but far more rapidly. Aegon the Conqueror himself left the Tullys as Lord Paramount to keep the Riverlands divided so it would be easier to rule, but for now, the Tullys needed to be assured that the crown was truly sorry for what had happened.

Jaehaerys I Targaryen recognized the depth of House Stark's anger and the complexity of the situation that Daemon's actions had created. The Starks were a proud and strong-willed house, valuing martial prowess and honor above all else. Jaehaerys understood that in the North, strength was respected, and it was incumbent upon Daemon to prove himself worthy of their respect and trust.

To earn the respect of House Stark, Daemon faced a daunting challenge. He had to demonstrate his strength and skill in combat by facing off against every Northern man who was considered a formidable fighter. This trial was no small feat, as the North was known for their martial prowess and unyielding determination. But Daemon's journey didn't end there; he had to prove himself similarly to every Stark man as well in attendance, a grueling task that tested his mettle and resolve.

How Daemon achieved this feat remained a mystery, whether it was divine intervention, sheer luck, or an unyielding determination to succeed. Regardless of the means, the results spoke for themselves. Daemon emerged victorious, earning the begrudging respect of the Stark family and the Northern lords. His ability to endure and triumph in the face of such daunting challenges demonstrated his strength and resilience, qualities highly valued in the North.

But Daemon needed to be punished before the courts. He had defied the crown, and even if Daemon was a part of the crown that would not be tolerated, it would start a dangerous precedent, and before they knew it, another Maegor may rise. So, Jaehaerys ordered Baelon himself to whip his son on the back two and forty times. Three times the fourteen days he was gone, three times for the three houses he angered the most, Stark, Tully, and Royce.

Jaehaerys had ordered his son to whip Daemon to show the realm that a father of the royal crown would put the crown before their own children. As well as punishing Baelon for being disarmed by a woman, the realm would not take kindly to their future king being disarmed by a girl a head shorter than he; most men would not follow said man into battle. For every whip Daemon felt rip into his back, leaving a raw bleeding line in its wake, Baelon was forced to pain his own son; Jaehaerys could even see the tears fall from his eyes as Baelon did his duty.

It inadvertently was a punishment for Lyanna as well. She had fought through three men to reach her husband before Lord Rickon Stark himself was forced to hold his daughter back for the punishment that needed to be shown.

Daemon did not let out a single cry, not a whimper or yell, merely a grunt every time the whip licked his back. He looked at Lyanna, his eyes clouded by anger and rage, but a smile graced his lips. Jaehaerys could even hear his grandson grunt out that he would happily have done this again if it led to Lyanna once more.

But now, here Jaehaery was in the somber halls of the Red Keep, sitting on the Iron Throne, a colossal amalgamation of swords that represented both power and pain. Its cold, unyielding metal pressed into his flesh, a constant reminder of the weight of his rule. Before him stood Daemon Targaryen, a grieving father who had just lost his wife Lyanna to the unforgiving grip of childbirth fever. The court was silent; the lords and ladies of the realm gathered to bear witness to a somber moment. Jaehaerys wished the girl had lived; she had somehow curbed Dameon's worse impulses, the man had stopped whoring and drinking, and yet she had died not but three days later after birthing her son when the maesters had claimed that she was in perfect health the same day she had birthed the child.

Daemon presented his newborn son, Aemon Targaryen, to the assembled court, the fragile cries of the infant cutting through the heavy silence that enveloped the room. The courtiers, lords, and ladies, who had once been allies or rivals, now stood united in a rare moment of shared sorrow. Lyanna's death had cast a shadow over the entire realm, a reminder of the fragility of life and the inevitability of loss, even within the walls of the Red Keep. Aemon, the newest scion of House Targaryen, was a symbol of hope, a reminder that life persisted even in the face of loss and tragedy.

Jaehaerys, his gaze filled with empathy, looked upon his grandson and great-grandson, recognizing the bittersweet nature of the moment. The court, too, observed in respectful silence, aware of the significance of this occasion. Aemon's birth represented the continuation of the Targaryen legacy, even as the family mourned the loss of a most recent member.

The room, usually bustling with political intrigue and whispered conversations, was now permeated with a solemn stillness. In the face of death and birth, the cyclical nature of life in Westeros played out before them, a reminder of the fragility and resilience of the human spirit.

The death of Lyanna had cast a long shadow over the Red Keep, and Daemon's grief was profound and deeply personal. In the weeks that followed, he became fiercely protective of his newborn son, Aemon. The pain of his loss mingled with the joy of new life, creating a complex mix of emotions that he held close to his heart.

Daemon's decision to keep Aemon secluded was an unconventional choice, even within the walls of the Red Keep. The newborn, a symbol of both hope and sorrow, was shielded from the prying eyes of the court and the whispers of the realm. Only Daemon and the trusted wet nurse were allowed into the chamber where Aemon rested, away from the curious gazes and speculative murmurs of the courtiers.

Even Baelon, Aemon's grandfather and a member of the royal family, had not yet set eyes on the child. The exclusion was intentional, a manifestation of Daemon's need to protect his son from the outside world, shielding him from the complexities of the Targaryen legacy and the political intricacies of the realm.

In this private sanctuary, Daemon found solace, cradling his son and whispering words of love and comfort. Aemon, unaware of the weight of his lineage, slept peacefully in his father's arms, a beacon of innocence in a world marked by power struggles and political maneuvering.

King Jaehaerys, sitting atop the Iron Throne, his expression a blend of curiosity and concern, watched his son and grandson approach. His wife, Alysanne, and his son, Baelon Targaryen, the crown prince, stood nearby, his eyes fixed on his grandson, a mixture of emotions playing on his face. Daemon Targaryen, his face a mix of pride and sadness, approached the Iron Throne, cradling his son Aemon in his arms. Jaehaerys looked to the side and looked at Viserys Targryen, his heir's heir, and Viserys' wife, Aemma Targryen, Aemma holding their newborn daughter Rhaeynra Targaryen in her arms. Like all with the name Targaryen, she had silvery blonde locks and purple eyes; like their kin, she wore colors of red and black. The hushed tones and curious glances followed him as he ascended the steps, his every move scrutinized.

Jaehaerys, his voice calm yet commanding, broke the silence. "Prince Daemon," he said, his eyes meeting his grandson's, "bring the child forward."

Daemon nodded, his grip on Aemon steady yet tender. With measured steps, he approached the Iron Throne and extended his arms, presenting his son to the king and handing him to Alysanne. "His name is Aemon Targaryen," Daemon said, his voice steady. "Lyanna's last gift to me, to us."

The court held its breath, the air heavy with anticipation as King Jaehaerys looked down at the newborn in his arms. Aemon, unaware of the significance of the moment, gazed up with innocent eyes, tiny fingers reaching out toward the queen.

Alyssane's expression softened as she gently cradled the child. Jaehaerys' gaze shift between Aemon and his grieving father. "Aemon," she said, his voice carrying a mixture of solemnity and affection, "may you grow strong and wise, a true dragon of House Targaryen."

"Let all know, Aemon Targaryen, son of Daemon Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, is prince of the blood and a member of the house of the Dragon!" Jaehaerys roared in the throne room; his voice echoed loudly for all to hear.

Jaehaerys looks to the courts and sighs. He must look at the child without the prying eyes of the court, and he had done his duty to show the realm the child and confirm no hostility with Daemon, as well as confirm the child is a prince of the blood, especially due to the unease of how Lyanna and Daemon came together. They had another potential rider.

"Leave us," King Jaehaerys commanded, his voice resonating with authority, and the courtiers quickly filed out, leaving only those of the royal family in the room. Jaehaerys descended the steps of the Iron Throne, his movements deliberate, and walked towards Daemon, his expression a mix of solemnity and concern.

Meanwhile, Viserys, holding his own newborn daughter Rhaenyra, approached Alysanne with Aemon, a tender smile on his lips. "Meet your cousin, Aemon," Viserys said softly, his voice filled with familial warmth. He grabs her little hand gently and waves it towards Aemon, who smiles softly but, unlike Rhaenyra, does not laugh. "Does he even make noise, brother?"

"I suppose not," Daemon said smugly as he returned to his baby son, who wished to stay with his father. "And my sleep is thankful for it."

"On that, I am envious," Aemma said with an exasperated sigh.

"In truth, the only time I heard a peep from him was the night of his birth. Aemon has barely made a sound since; it is far easier to manage. The wet nurse said it was peculiar but not the first time she nursed a calm child, most definitely not to this extreme, however," Daemon returned.

"It seems the gods had graced us with your opposite then," Baelon said, walking towards his son. "If I could sow your mouth shut and cut your pride by half, the realm would thank me for it," Baelon said as he reached for the baby. Daemon hesitated for a second before giving his son over to Baleon. "It would seem I like you more than your father already."

"It would be good for Rhaenyra to have a playmate. There are far too few children in the court these days—too little for Rhaeynra to mingle with," Viserys said. Jaehaerys could see Aemma wished to say something, most likely a protest, but she chose to hold her tongue.

Jaehaerys drew closer, his gaze fixed on the infants. Aemon, cradled in Baelon's arms, looked up with wide, innocent eyes, while Rhaenyra, nestled in her father's embrace, seemed curious about the new face before her.

As Jaehaerys studied young Aemon, he couldn't help but notice the distinctive features that marked him as a Targaryen were absent; he was all Stark. The dark curls, reminiscent of Stark's signature hair, framed the baby's face, cascading in soft, curling waves. It was a trait shared with Lyanna, a reminder of her presence in their bloodline; the Targaryen hair was far more straight.

King Jaehaerys observed the newborn Aemon closely, his eyes keenly discerning the subtle details that made up the child's appearance. The dark, untamed curls atop the baby's head and the amount of hair the babe had was a stark contrast to the usual soft fuzz of newborns, caught his attention first. His gaze then fell upon the child's eyes, deep and mysterious, seemingly belonging to the Starks, but with a hidden secret that only the flicker of candlelight could reveal.

As the light danced in Aemon's eyes, their true color was revealed—indigo, so deep it appeared almost black. It was a hue both rare and captivating, reminiscent of the night sky just before dawn. Jaehaerys found himself captivated by those eyes, a trait he recognized all too well.

In that moment, Jaehaerys saw not only the Stark lineage but also the unmistakable reflection of Daemon as an infant. The resemblance was striking to Daemon as a baby was undeniable, a testament to the powerful thread of Targaryen blood that ran through Aemon's veins. The mingling of the Starks' dark features and the Targaryen legacy seemed to create a unique harmony in the child, a blend of two great houses that had shaped the destiny of Westeros for generations.

"Now, here is my grandson; you have been in this keep for three moons, and two of which you have locked yourself and our latest dragonling in your chambers," Alysanne returned to Daemon.

"Yes, and the skies are empty without my presence in them," Daemon said to his grandmother.

"This morning was a grand one for flight. The last several days have been nothing but clouds and rain, but today, the sun was as bright as ever, and the winds were kind. I do miss riding with the only one in my line who likes to fly as much as I do," Alysanne said.

While nothing too accusing towards Daemon, Alysanne was gentle, and if she made a comment, somehow the words would worm their way into the heart, and the words as gentle as a dove became a strike like a serpent. And even if it was not meant to do harm, it would still make one feel guilty if needed. Daemon was no exception; the boy, not yet a man, had always been closer to Alysanne after the death of his mother, Alyssa. Alyssa had passed when Daemon was but three, so the child never truly knew her; it was Alyssa who took the position of the missing mother.

"I am sorry for it, grandmother," Daemon said, lowering his head; the boy was speaking the truth. Alyssa, his daughter, inherited Alysanne's deep love for the vast skies, and Daemon inherited that same love from Alyssa. The pair of Alysanne and Daemon were found in the skies more often than not. Jaehaerys even recalled Alyssa taking the young baby Daemon upon Meleys through the skies before Daemon could even walk.

"Yes, well, I wish for your presence in the skies tomorrow. Your grandfather is far too busy to spend time with his wonderful and loving wife to get on Vermithor and fly with her," Alyssa said, glancing at her husband. "But if you wish to be in my good graces once more, I wish to spend time with my latest great-grandsire," Jaehaerys said nothing but kept his eyes on the baby.

Aemon was far too quiet for a baby, far too observant. Jaehaerys may not have been the father, but he was a father to thirteen children and thirteen babies. And none were as quiet as he; none were as observant. None followed one's movements, not in curiosity but as if just studying them.

King Jaehaerys and Crown Prince Baelon exchanged a knowing glance, a silent understanding passing between them. With a nod from Jaehaerys, Baelon stepped forward, his voice resonating with authority as he addressed his youngest son. He held on to his grandson before looking back to his sons and clearing his throat.

"A royal father needs a home for his son, a place where his legacy can thrive," Baelon declared, his tone confident.

"What do you mean? I thought the Red Keep was his home," Viserys asked his father, looking from Daemon to the nephew.

"Tire of me already? I thought I had, at least until you were king before you decided to get rid of me," Daemon chuckled smugly.

"We are not getting rid of you that easily, Daemon. I do believe even if we exiled you from King's Landing, you would return upon Caraxes," Alysanne chuckled before taking the small bundle in Baelon's arms and singing a Valyrian lullaby that she would sing for their own children when their but babes.

Baleon rolled his eyes at his son but continued undeterred. "I've spoken with my father, and we've reached an agreement. A new branch of House Targaryen is to be established, one that will carry the weight of our name and honor our legacy."

"He's getting a castle?" Aemma asked, shocked, reading between the lines.

"I am getting a castle," Daemon responded in surprise.

"You are getting a castle," Alysanne smiled, satisfied when looking upon her grandson.

"Originally, you were to rule with Rhae Royce, by her side, over the Royce lands and Runestone, but things have changed," Jaehaerys said stoically. "We wished to foster stronger ties with the realm, and Aemon is proof of that, even if the means were unconventional. The Starks would never rise against us; they have blood ties to the crown, and the Starks are nothing if not loyal to their own. The boy is a member of their pack. Your father spoke on your behalf to give you a keep, and after much deliberation, it would do for us to have a candid branch in the lands of a House most loyal to the crown, the Baratheons of the Stormlands."

Pausing for emphasis, Baelon continued, his words imbued with a sense of purpose. "A castle shall rise in the Dornish marches, strategically positioned along the path leading to the King's Wood and, most importantly, to the King's Landing. This castle, this new seat of our house, shall be named Summerhall."

"With the fall of House Dondarrion," Jaehaerys said, " due to the last remaining member falling to Dark Sister after the you lord wished to fight for Lyanna's hand, there is no one protecting the Dornish marches."

"In his defense, the man did wait until Daemon was tired from fighting every Northman there at the time before wishing to fight and trying to take Lyanna," Viserys said with a soft smile.

"He was a c*nt. Had to wait till I tired myself out before having the balls to fight me himself," Daemon argued.

Baelon continued, his eyes leveling a glare at Deamon, proof that his son's actions angered him and his words were crude at best. "Daemon's actions have removed any existing house along the strip leading to the King's Wood. Now, it falls to us to defend this path. And who better to safeguard this passage than the rider of one of the dragons who has faced the Dornish in the past, defending our realm from their attacks, and the same person who put us in this predicament?"

"Daemon shall take charge of this endeavor," Jaehaerys stated firmly, "both as his future seat and the future seat of his son, Aemon."

The tension in the room escalated as Daemon's realization sunk in, a deep furrow appearing on his brow as he began to protest. "I cannot leave my son," he insisted, his voice carrying a mixture of frustration and desperation. He turned to his father, Baelon, seeking understanding and support. "You know I cannot be apart from him. Aemon needs his father by his side."

Baelon, however, stood firm, his expression resolute. "Daemon, the future lord of Summerhall, must oversee its creation," he stated firmly, his voice brooking no argument. "It's a responsibility that comes with his station. He will stay here alongside the rest of the royal family. Aemon will be well cared for, surrounded by those who love him."

Viserys, ever the voice of reason, stepped in. "Daemon," he said, his tone gentle yet firm, "you are not alone in this. Aemon will have the company of his kin, and you will visit him as often as you can. Summerhall's construction is a significant task that demands your attention. Your son's future and the future of House Targaryen depend on it."

Daemon's frustration boiled over, his voice rising as he argued vehemently against the separation. "I will not be absent from his life," he declared, his eyes ablaze with determination. "I won't let him grow up without his father. He already lost his mother, and I will not leave the boy thinking himself a f*cking orphan for the most important years of his life!"

Baelon's voice grew firmer as the argument continued, his patience wearing thin. "Daemon, you will oversee the construction of Summerhall. This is not a request; it is an order," he said, his tone unyielding.

Daemon's eyes blazed with defiance, his jaw set in stubborn determination. "I won't do it. I won't leave my son," he retorted, his voice resolute. "I'll burn everything to the f*cking ground before I do that!"

Their voices clashed in the air, a battle of wills that seemed unending. The tension between father and son escalated until Baelon, frustrated and angered by Daemon's refusal, stepped closer, their faces inches apart. He locked eyes with his son, his own gaze unwavering. Jaehaerys thought the pair were going to trade blows in the throne room; the only reason that he convinced himself otherwise was because Aemon was still in Baelon's grasp.

Daemon met his father's gaze with unyielding defiance, refusing to back down despite the closeness of their confrontation. His jaw clenched, his eyes ablaze with determination.

But then, something shifted within Daemon. A flicker of realization, a brief moment of hesitation. He glanced away just slightly, his gaze wavering for a fraction of a second. In that moment, he acknowledged the truth – he may be able to best his father in a physical fight, but it was still his father.

Baelon seized the opportunity, pressing his point home. "Daemon, this is not just about you. It's about the future of our house, the legacy we leave behind. You know this. You know your duty."

Daemon's jaw clenched, his fists balled at his sides. He looked away, his eyes fixed on some distant point, his defiance slowly giving way to a begrudging acceptance of his father's words. He looked down for a second longer before turning his heated gaze towards his father once more.

"How long would it take to build the damn thing?" Daemon said, seething.

"A decade, maybe more. If you are quick about it, it may be less. It had better be a seat worthy of your son, boy," Baelon returned to his six and ten-year-old son. "I will not have you tarnish our name, your son's future seat, by cutting corners so that you can return to him. You are a second son of a second son, even if by royal blood you were, up until my brother's death, set to inherit less than nothing. Your brother will inherit the throne after me and his son after him. Being able to make your own legacy despite not being set to inherit the kingdoms is a privilege, not a punishment. Understand?" Baelon said, eyeing his son for defiance.

"Understood," Daemon said, his hands gripping tighter.

Baelon said nothing for some time before rocking the baby back and forth. Baelon and Jaehaerys looked at the baby; he was not lulling to sleep. He made no sound, but his gaze looked to Baelon not as a baby did, in curiosity, but critically, almost as if it was gaging Baelon's worth. Baby Aemon was observing Baelon with a stoic expression, no emotion, purely just staring into the man's very soul. It was, to Jaehaerys, like looking at the face of a fully grown Stark, as calm as the winter storms from the outside, but once inside the storm, only a cold, brutal, slow, and painful death awaited. If nothing else, the boy reminded Jaehaerys of the King's of Winter all those years ago before the Conquest.

"Aemon will remain here, under the care of the royal family," Baelon asserted firmly, his tone brooking no argument. "He will be raised alongside his cousin, surrounded by family, and prepared for the responsibilities that await him."

Daemon attempted to protest further, but before he could voice his objections, Jaehaerys intervened, his eyes stern and voice unyielding. "This is the consequence of your actions," Jaehaerys declared, his words cutting through the air like a blade. "You chose to disregard our counsel regarding your first betrothal, acting against our wishes. Such defiance cannot go unpunished."

Daemon said nothing while looking at the pair. He merely reached for his son before storming off of the throne room once Aemon was in his grasp once more. Baelon was going to follow him, but Jaehaerys stopped him.

"He is grieving the loss of his wife and will give up the time with his son. Give him this time. Allow him to take solace in this moment with Aemon, alone," Alysanne replied to her son. Baelon nodded to his mother.

"Daemon will leave in the morning," Jaehaerys said.

"No, the boy is having his son taken from him, even if not officially. The time for morning has barely started," Alysanne told them. "A month, you will give him a month."

Dragonpit 97

???

In the heart of King's Landing, within the sprawling maze of stone passages and chambers that formed the Dragonpit, a deep snoring echoed. It was an ominous sound that resonated through the labyrinth, a low rumble that shook the very foundations of the ancient structure. The snoring was a sound so profound and powerful that it seemed to reverberate through the earth itself as though a slumbering giant stirred in the depths of the world.

A deep rumble crossed the dark tunnels of the Dragonpit. So deep was the grumble, so deep was the rolling of living thunder that the grounds around the tunnels shook and turned, the grounds cracked and waned.

Its towering walls, adorned with intricate carvings of dragons in flight, loomed over the city of King's Landing. Inside, nearly a dozen adult dragons were confined within massive cages, their majestic wings and sharp claws restrained. These dragons, once the pride of House Targaryen, now resided within the pit, a reminder of the power wielded by the House Targaryen.

Amidst the cacophony of growls, roars, and restless flapping of wings, there was one sound that stood out among the rest – the deep, thunderous snoring of a single creature. This dragon, larger and more ancient than the others, lay in a far corner of the pit, hidden from the sight of most who ventured inside. Its snores were not mere noises of sleep; they were a force of nature, a symphony of sound that filled the air and reverberated off the walls.

As one ventured deeper into the labyrinthine tunnels of the Dragonpit, the snoring grew louder and more intense. The ground trembled with each exhalation, and the very air seemed to vibrate with the dragon's powerful breaths. Those who dared to approach too closely risked their eardrums bursting and their senses overwhelmed by the sheer force of the noise.

As one ventured deeper into the Dragonpit, the intensity of the snoring grew, and with it, the temperature rose. The sleeping sounds, like thunderous roars, resonated through the vast passages, causing the air to shimmer with an almost palpable heat. The closer one got to the slumbering beast, the more oppressive the atmosphere became as if the dragon's very presence was suffocating.

The passages leading to this particular dragon were awe-inspiringly colossal. Wide enough for entire armies to march through, these stone corridors were designed to accommodate the grandeur of dragons. Even the mightiest of creatures, with wingspans that could blot out the sun, had once found these passages spacious enough. But this dragon, ancient and colossal, had outgrown even the grandest of spaces.

Its immense form stretched out within the confines of the passage, its scales glinting in the dim light like polished obsidian. The once generously wide passage, built to house dragons of considerable size, now seemed cramped and confining. The dragon's massive frame filled the corridor from wall to wall, its wings pressed tightly against its sides and its tail coiled in a serpentine fashion. The very stone of the Dragonpit groaned under the weight of the creature as if protesting against the burden it bore.

In this colossal prison, the dragon lay in a state of profound slumber, oblivious to the world outside. Its snores reverberated off the walls, creating a constant, rhythmic percussion that resonated through the Dragonpit like a heartbeat. Those who dared to approach marveled at the sheer magnitude of the beast, dwarfed by its immense size.

From my blood comes the Prince who was promised. And his will be a song of ice and fire.

Suddenly defying its immense age, the dragon's eyes snapped open, revealing orbs as red as blood. These eyes were so large that they were nearly the size of a grown man, and within them, a glint of intelligence and otherworldly knowledge shone.

The dragon's gaze, like that of a reptile, was locked on the surrounding stone confines. The slit pupils dilated and narrowed as it took in its surroundings. The creature's instincts, honed over centuries of existence, kicked into action. It realized that something had changed that the world it had known for so long was no longer the same.

The dragon sensed a disturbance in the core of its being, a flicker of magic intertwined with life, pulsating with an energy that had roused it from its decades-long slumber. The source of this magical awakening was a rider, a newborn whose very essence was intertwined with ancient powers. The confluence of these magics had finally penetrated the dragon's deep sleep, pulling it back into the waking world.

The dragon's awakening had been triggered by a unique and extraordinary event. The rider, born earlier in the year, carried within them a wellspring of potent and ancient magics. These magics, a connection to the very essence of dragons, had finally stirred the slumbering beast from its deep and timeless rest. It was as though the dragon had sensed the presence of a kindred spirit, a connection that transcended mere words and thoughts.

The rider, still a babe in the world, was the vessel for a power that had been dormant for generations. The dragon's awakening was not just a physical phenomenon but a manifestation of the profound bond that existed between them. As the dragon's gaze roved, it seemed to acknowledge the young rider's presence, an unspoken understanding that bound them together in a shared destiny. The Song of Ice and Fire had been born, Aegon's Dream had come at last.

The ancient dragon understood the limitations of his age and the toll that decades of confinement within the Dragonpit had taken on his once-mighty form. He had witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations, the vert flow of magics of fire and blood, and the changing tides of power. He knew that he was weaker now; his muscles atrophied, his scales dulled, and his once-ferocious flames dimmed.

However, the dragon sensed a glimmer of hope in his newfound rider, a beacon of extraordinary magical potential that seemed boundless. The young Targaryen, though just a child in the eyes of the world, possessed a reservoir of magic that surpassed even the most powerful sorcerers of old Valyria. With every beat of his heart, the rider exuded an energy that pulsed through the dragon, knitting his wounds, infusing strength into his tired muscles, and revitalizing his very essence.

In the presence of his bond, even if the newborn was in the Red Keep rather than the Dragonpit, the dragon felt the currents of magic swirl around him, healing and rejuvenation encompassing him. The young rider's powers, as vast as the cosmos, worked their way into the dragon's ancient body, mending the wear and tear of centuries. The dragon grew larger, stronger, and more vibrant with each passing moment. The very essence of the Valyrian bloodline, once dormant within the dragon's veins, now surged with newfound vitality.

The dragon felt the tension of his own muscles and knew that Vhagar, the mount of his first rider's sister, would feel verified that the true leader of the dragons would rise once more. His eyes, once dimmed with age, glowed with renewed vigor and intelligence. The Dragonpit, once a prison, became a crucible of transformation. The dragon, once weakened and diminished, would soon stand tall and proud, his size surpassing that of the mightiest dragons the Valyrians had ever known.

The dragon's roar reverberated through the Dragonpit, a sound that echoed ancient power and an unyielding spirit. It was a terrifying cry, louder than the fury of ten thousand thunderstorms, yet tinged with the weariness of age. The sound was long, stretching out like a groan, carrying the weight of decades of slumber and confinement.

As the dragon's roar filled the air, the ground beneath trembled, the very earth quaking in response to his mighty voice. The Dragonpit, once an impenetrable fortress, shook as if caught in the throes of a great earthquake. Dust and debris rained down from the ceiling, adding to the spectacle of raw, elemental power unleashed.

Despite the laborious nature of his roar, the dragon harbored a quiet confidence deep within his ancient heart. He knew that time was on his side, that with the magics flowing from his bonded rider, he would regain his former strength. In the coming years, he would shed the shackles of his weakened state and emerge anew, a force to be reckoned with.

As the dust settled and the echoes of his roar faded into the distance, the dragon closed his eyes, basking in the anticipation of the future. He knew that his roar, once feeble and labored, would soon regain its former might. And when that day came, the world would tremble once more in the presence of the last of the ancient dragons, reborn and ready to reclaim his rightful place among the king of the Targaryen dragons. He would make sure his future rider's enemies knew fire and blood. For he was Balerion, the Black Dread.

Chapter 3: A Kind Brother

Summary:

Viserys Targaryen wishes to do his brother and nephew a kindness and reunite them after some time apart. But issues arise across the seas and beyond the Wall.

Chapter Text

The Pyke 99 AC

Dagmer Greyjoy

Dagmer Greyjoy, the Lord Reaper of Pyke, was an imposing figure on the Iron Islands. His pale complexion contrasted sharply with his black hair and neat dark beard, giving him a striking appearance. Tall and strong, he commanded attention wherever he went. One distinctive feature was the black patch that covered his left eye, adding an air of mystery to his already enigmatic presence.

Seated upon the Salt Throne, an ancient and revered seat of power on the Iron Islands, Dagmer ruled with authority. The Salt Throne was a formidable sight, crafted from a single block of oily black stone and meticulously carved into the shape of a kraken, the emblem of House Greyjoy. This impressive seat had been the throne of the Kings of the Iron Islands for generations, symbolizing the might and heritage of the Ironborn.

Amidst the raging storm, Dagmer Greyjoy stood tall, undeterred by the howling winds and crashing waves that assaulted the Iron Islands and Pyke. With the thunderous roars and blinding flashes of lightning illuminating his determined face, he rose from his seat, leaving the Salt Throne behind, and made his way to a sturdy table adorned with a detailed map of the Seven Kingdoms.

His fingers traced the intricate lines of the map, following the contours of the North, the Riverlands, the Westerlands, and the Reach. His eyes, filled with a mix of calculation and ambition, studied the territories before him. The storm outside mirrored the turmoil within him as he pondered the vast expanse of Westeros and the intricate web of alliances and rivalries that bound its kingdoms together.

Dagmer Greyjoy's determination to return the Iron Islands to the old ways burned brightly within him, a fierce flame that refused to be extinguished. In his mind, the key to reclaiming the Ironborn's ancient glory lay in challenging the dragons, the symbol of Targaryen power that had reshaped Westeros and tamed the fierce spirit of the Iron Islands.

As the storm battered Pyke, symbolizing the relentless force of nature threatening to erode the Ironborn's homeland, Dagmer refused to succumb to despair. Instead, he channeled his people's indomitable spirit, vowing that they would not fade away quietly into the sea. The shrinking shores of Pyke only fueled his resolve, strengthening his conviction to fight against the encroaching waters and the dragons that symbolized the changing tides of power in Westeros.

Dagmer Greyjoy envisioned a future where the Ironborn would rise once more, reclaiming their independence and embracing the ancient traditions that defined their fierce and seafaring culture. He was prepared to challenge the dragons, even if it meant defying the might of House Targaryen. His determination was unwavering, and he was ready to lead his people in a fierce battle, not just against the dragons, but against the very forces of nature that threatened to consume them.

Dagmer Greyjoy's eyes flickered with intrigue as he read the paper, his fingers tracing the words had to explain to him. The information laid out before him presented a tantalizing opportunity. The Dornish, long known for their defiance against the dragons, were willing to collaborate with the Ironborn. Their offer to provide materials and blueprints for building scorpions, deadly anti-dragon weapons, was a proposition that could not be ignored. The Dornish and the Free Cities, it seemed, harbored no love for the dragons and were willing to assist in opposing them.

The prospect of uniting with the Dornish, their common enemy being the dragons and the Targaryens, appealed to Dagmer's desire to restore the Ironborn's independence. The strategic plan to attack the new Targaryen keep, Sumerhall, from the North, where its defenses were comparatively weaker, added weight to the proposal. The strong series of walls guarding the southern approach, designed to fend off Dornish attacks, left the northern side vulnerable and presented an ideal opportunity for a surprise assault.

Dagmer Greyjoy saw this alliance as a means to strike back at the dragons, to challenge their dominance and restore the Iron Islands to their former glory. With the Dornish support and their shared goal of resisting Targaryen rule, Dagmer envisioned a powerful coalition that could potentially tip the balance of power in Westeros.

Dagmer Greyjoy accepted the Dornish proposal, recognizing the potential strength that could come from such an alliance. With this agreement in place, he now needed to devise a strategy to confront the other armies of the Seven Kingdoms. He pondered the strengths and weaknesses of the various regions.

With the Dornish alliance secured, Dagmer Greyjoy began to formulate a bold and strategic plan to face the other armies of the kingdoms. His eyes narrowed in concentration as he considered the strengths and weaknesses of each region. The Riverlands and the North lacked formidable fleets, making them less immediate threats. The Lannisters, however, possessed a swift and powerful navy, capable of quick responses due to it being the closest. To weaken the Lannisters, Dagmer knew he had to strike at their fleet swiftly and decisively.

Simultaneously, he recognized the need to neutralize another significant naval power – the Redwynes of the Arbor, renowned for their naval prowess and vast fleet. Attacking both the Lannisters and the Redwynes would be a daring move, but it was a gamble Dagmer was willing to take.

Simultaneously, while attacking the fleets of the Lannisters and the Redwynes, part of Dagmer's forces would target the North and the Manderly's fleet. Though they might not be as significant in naval power, weakening the North and disrupting their coastal defenses would further destabilize the region and prevent them from mounting a strong counteroffensive.

The decision to raid Old Town, one of the most significant cities in the Reach, would be for the best, but even he knew that stretching himself too thin was unadvised when the Targaryens had dragons. By setting the entire Reach ablaze and burning their vital wheat fields, Dagmer intended to deal a severe blow to the region's resources. Starving the Reach of its primary food source would create widespread desperation and weaken the kingdoms, making it easier for the Ironborn to assert their dominance.

With the Reach in chaos, the North weakened, and key naval forces neutralized, Dagmer Greyjoy's plan would pave the way for the Ironborn to pillage and plunder vast territories. From the Westerlands to the Crown lands, they would exploit the weakened defenses and strike fear into the hearts of the people, amassing wealth and resources to strengthen their own position.

Dagmer Greyjoy was well aware of the challenges posed by stretching his forces thin across multiple simultaneous attacks. However, he understood the element of surprise and the importance of swift, coordinated strikes. By attacking the Reach, the North, and the coastal territories of the Westerlands and the Crown lands nearly simultaneously, the element of surprise would catch the other kingdoms off guard.

The key to success lay in the speed and efficiency of their assaults. If the attacks were executed swiftly and decisively, the Ironborn could create enough chaos and confusion to retreat before the full strength of the counterattacks could be mobilized. Retreating strategically would allow them to regroup, consolidate their gains, and prepare for the inevitable retaliation with as many scorpions as hey could make.

Dagmer Greyjoy's ambitious plans required a significant naval fleet, and he understood the urgent need for more ships. To achieve this, he faced the daunting task of sourcing ample wood, a precious resource on the Iron Islands. Recognizing the necessity of his endeavor, he would need to order the cutting down of every tree on the islands, sacrificing the natural landscape to fuel his ambition for power and independence.

However, even with the island's resources exhausted, it became apparent that more wood would be needed to meet the demands of shipbuilding. Dagmer considered the possibility of trading with the Free Cities to acquire the necessary wood. The Free Cities could provide a valuable source of timber in exchange for Ironborn goods or services.

Dagmer contemplated seeking the assistance of Braavos, and their own navy as further aid. Though reluctant to part with gold, he understood the importance of borrowing ships from the Braavosi if it meant expediting his plans. Paying the Gold Price was a bitter pill to swallow. However, he recognized necessity of doing so to achieve his goals within the tight timeframe of five years, however unlikely it was to actually meet it.

Under the cover of darkness, with the storm still raging around Pyke, Dagmer assembled his most trusted advisors. Together, they devised a plan that involved coordinating surprise attacks on both the Lannister fleet and the Redwyne fleet. By striking swiftly and catching their enemies off guard, they hoped to cripple two of the most powerful naval forces in the Seven Kingdoms. And then raid the entire kingdom.

In the dimly lit room, the howling storm outside mirrored the turmoil within Dagmer Greyjoy's mind. His determination burned brightly, undeterred by the fierce weather battering Pyke. Surrounded by his advisors, he carefully weighed the options and strategies, his eyes fixed on the maps and plans spread across the table. The candles flickered, casting eerie shadows on the faces of those gathered, but Dagmer's resolve remained unshaken.

As he listened to his advisors, Dagmer's thoughts were consumed by a singular, unwavering goal: to see the dragons fall. His vision was clear, fueled by a deep-seated determination to free the Ironborn from the shadow of the dragons and the Targaryen rule. The storm outside seemed to echo his fury, as if nature itself was conspiring with him in his quest for vengeance and freedom.

"The dragons will drown," he declared, his voice firm and resolute. "What is dead may never die!" The words resonated in the room, echoing the ancient Ironborn mantra as the others roared the same words back.

King's Landing 99 AC

Viserys Targaryen

Viserys doubted he could ever fully apricate the works of Aegon and his sister-wives. Aegon the Conqueror, the first of his name, had established his rule over the Seven Kingdoms, but he sought a seat of power worthy of his newfound dominion. Thus, atop the primitive fort known as the Aegonfort, perched on a rugged hill overlooking the Blackwater Rush, he envisioned a grand structure that would symbolize the strength of his dynasty and the unity of his realm.

In the early days, the Aegonfort served as a modest seat for the Conqueror during his triumphant campaigns. But as the realm settled into the peace of his rule, Aegon's ambitions soared higher. He decreed that the humble fort be torn down, making way for an ambitious project that would immortalize his legacy and house the coveted Iron Throne, the seat of power in the Seven Kingdoms.

With the Conqueror's vision as their guide, craftsmen and laborers toiled relentlessly, their sweat and toil shaping the very stones of the Red Keep. Aegon's dream began to take tangible form, transforming the hilltop into a colossal fortress of pale red stone, a monument to his reign and the Targaryen dynasty. The construction spanned years, spanning the reigns of Aegon the Conqueror and his successor Aenys the Abomination, then Maegor the Cruel, who oversaw the completion of the Red Keep.

The Red Keep, once a mere idea in Aegon's mind, now stood tall and proud, a testament to the vision and determination of its royal architects. Its seven massive drum towers, crowned with iron ramparts, loomed over King's Landing, casting a shadow over the city and the Blackwater Rush below. Within its walls, the Iron Throne found its new home, a symbol of authority that would shape the fate of the realm for generations to come.

As the sun rose from the horizon, casting a warm, golden glow over the city of King's Landing, citizens and travelers approached the majestic Red Keep. The sight that greeted them was nothing short of awe-inspiring, a spectacle that seemed to emerge from the annals of ancient legends. Made of pale red stone that seemed to catch fire under the fading sunlight, the Red Keep stood proudly, overlooking the mouth of the Blackwater Rush like a sentinel guarding the secrets of the realm.

The fortress was a formidable structure, its imposing silhouette dominating the skyline of King's Landing. Seven massive drum towers, each one reaching for the heavens, crowned with iron ramparts that gleamed menacingly in the fading light. It was as if the keep itself was a living, breathing entity, a creature of stone and steel, its very presence evoking both fear and respect.

Its walls rose high into the sky, seemingly touching the clouds, while its towers reached for the stars, a testament to the might and ambition of those who had built it. The keep seemed impregnable, a fortress that could withstand any siege, its red walls whispering tales of battles won and lost, of triumphs and tragedies that had shaped the destiny of the realm.

The keep so large the interior was a labyrinthine of corridors and passages. The air was thick with the scent of age-old stone, and every step echoed with the weight dragon king history. The corridors twisted and turned, leading the wayfarer deeper into the heart of the keep, where the secrets of the realm were said to be hidden away.

Prince Viserys Targaryen, a prince of the blood, found himself with a rare moment of leisure on a quiet afternoon. Even if he was not the prince of Dragonstone, nor was he one of the small council, he had much to do because his father, Baelon, would not give him time to rest. The weight of his responsibilities as a member of the illustrious Targaryen family pressed heavily upon his shoulders, yet today, he was determined to embrace the opportunity to bring joy to his loved ones. Among those dear to his heart were his younger brother, Daemon, and his nephew, Aemon.

As he strolled through the corridors of the Red Keep Viserys contemplated ways to bring happiness to his family. His thoughts gravitated towards little Aemon, who was about to celebrate his second birthday in a week's time. The idea of Aemon's innocent laughter and bright eyes filled Viserys' heart with warmth. He yearned to make this special occasion memorable for the child and his father, Daemon, who had been separated from his son for far too long.

Viserys knew the bond between a father and his child was precious and irreplaceable. He sympathized deeply with Daemon, who had been kept away from Aemon due to his duties and responsibilities within the realm. Viserys felt a pang of guilt for the absence of family moments that Daemon had missed, and he resolved to bridge that gap, if only for a short while.

With determination in his eyes, Viserys set out to organize a heartfelt reunion. He arranged for Aemon to meet his father after months of separation, orchestrating a moment that would be etched into their memories forever. Viserys believed that it was his duty, as Daemon's elder brother, to ensure his brother's happiness and to nurture the family bonds that held them together.

With little Aemon cradled gently in his arms, Prince Viserys Targaryen made his way to the Dragonpit, the ancient and awe-inspiring monument that stood as a testament to the Targaryen legacy. As he walked, he couldn't help but steal glances at his precious nephew, whose innocent eyes held a curiosity that mirrored the wonder of the world around him. Aemon's tiny fingers clutched at Viserys' clothing, and the prince couldn't help but smile at the sheer purity of the child's spirit.

As Prince Viserys Targaryen embarked on the journey to the Dragonpit with his young nephew, Aemon, his wife Aemma chose to remain in the familiar confines of the Red Keep. Her decision to stay behind was not made out of indifference but rather out of a deeply rooted desire not to get tangled with the chaos that was her brother-by-law and her cousin. Though her gaze never wavered from her daughter, there was a tension in her demeanor, a silent testament to the unresolved emotions that lingered within the family. Aemma had chosen not to accompany them to the Dragonpit, her desire to avoid any interaction with Daemon palpable.

The Dragonpit stood proudly atop the Hill of Rhaenys in King's Landing, a monumental testament to the awe-inspiring power and majesty of dragons. As Prince Viserys Targaryen entered the colossal structure, he marveled at its grandeur. The Dragonpit was a massive, cavernous building that seemed to stretch endlessly into the sky, its architecture a blend of elegance and imposing strength.

The outer walls of the Dragonpit were adorned with intricate designs and etchings of dragons, their wings outstretched and eyes fierce, capturing the essence of these mythical creatures in vivid detail. The sculptures seemed to come to life as the sunlight filtered through the openings, casting dynamic shadows that danced upon the stone walls. Each dragon depicted was unique, representing different breeds and sizes, showcasing the diversity of the Targaryen dragons.

Inside, the Dragonpit was a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers, echoing with the soft roars and gentle murmurs of the dragons residing within. The air was thick with the scent of smoke and sulfur, a constant reminder of the powerful beings that dwelled there. Massive statues of dragons adorned the inner sanctums, their imposing presence invoking both fear and reverence.

Dragonkeepers, clad in sturdy leather garments and armed with long pikes, moved about the chambers with purpose. They were responsible for the care and management of the dragons, tending to their needs, feeding them, and ensuring their confinement was secure. Some Dragonkeepers were seen delicately inspecting dragon eggs, their careful hands cradling the precious objects that held the promise of future power.

As Viserys walked alongside young Aemon, he explained the significance of the Dragonpit in a playful voice. He shared tales of legendary dragons and their riders, painting a vivid picture of the glorious past of House Targaryen. Aemon's eyes widened with wonder, absorbing the rich history that surrounded him, at least t looked that way to Viserys.

Viserys observed with affectionate amusem*nt as young Aemon's eyes widened in awe at the sight of the dragons. His nephew's fascination was palpable, his gaze tracing the lines of each dragon, marveling at their varying shapes and sizes. The Dragonpit was home to nearly a dozen of these majestic creatures, each one unique in its own right. Some dragons had long, coiling necks, while others stood tall and imposing. Aemon's innocent curiosity was a reminder of the enduring fascination that dragons held for generations of Targaryens.

In a fleeting moment, Viserys thought he saw something peculiar in Aemon's eyes. For an instant, they seemed to cloud over with a swirling white mist, the vibrant dark, near-black, indigo momentarily obscured. It was as if a mysterious veil had descended upon his nephew's gaze. However, the odd occurrence was so brief that Viserys dismissed it as a mere trick of the light, a play of shadows within the depths of the Dragonpit.

Blinking away the uncertainty, Viserys smiled down at Aemon, ruffling his hair affectionately. "Dragons have a way of captivating even the bravest of hearts, don't they?" he remarked, his voice warm with understanding. He decided not to mention the strange moment, choosing instead to focus on the joy of sharing this experience with his nephew.

"Bring me Sheepstealer," Viserys instructed the head Dragonkeeper in High Valryian.

Viserys, feeling a surge of nostalgia, decided to bring out his own dragon, Sheepstealer. Despite the unflattering description of its color as "mud brown," Sheepstealer possessed a unique and rugged beauty. His hide, although not adorned with vibrant hues, bore the marks of battles long fought and challenges overcome. Around his head, Sheepstealer boasted a crown of spikes reminiscent of his cousin Rhaenys' dragon, Meleys, even if only half as many spikes in number.

The dragon's most striking feature was its black teeth, sharp as daggers and hinting at the formidable power concealed within his jaw. With a wingspan that rivaled Silverwing and a length nearing two hundred feet, Sheepstealer was a magnificent beast, just slightly smaller than Vermithor, the mount of his grandfather, King Jaehaerys.

Despite his immense size and fearsome appearance, Sheepstealer was not inherently aggressive towards humans, displaying a surprisingly mild temperament unless provoked. However, when roused, he could be vicious and ill-tempered, a force to be reckoned with. His preferences were as peculiar as his appearance; Sheepstealer had a particular fondness for mutton, a taste that had earned him his distinctive name.

Aemon had asked to be put down; the boy's speech was far more advanced than it should be for his age. Viserys thought he was speaking to a boy four times his age of two, his birthday was a week, and the boy talked almost as if she was a decade old. As the Dragonkeepers carefully approached Sheepstealer, Viserys stood beside his nephew Aemon, watching in awe as the massive dragon stretched its wings and roared, the sound reverberating through the cavernous walls of the Dragonpit. Viserys' heart swelled with pride at the sight of his loyal companion.

With a sense of reverence, Viserys gently placed his hand on Sheepstealer's scaly snout, the dragon nuzzling him in response. It was a moment of connection, a silent understanding that spoke volumes about the bond between dragon and rider.

Viserys and young Aemon gazed up at Sheepstealer, the dragon so immense that it could easily swallow them whole if it so desired. The sheer size of the creature was utterly terrifying, a living embodiment of raw power and primal majesty. His brown scales, though lacking in vibrant colors, possessed a rugged beauty of their own. Each scale seemed to be a testament to decades of life, weathered and scarred, reflecting the dragon's storied existence.

As Viserys and Aemon observed in awe, they noticed the tensing muscles beneath Sheepstealer's coarse hide. His massive frame quivered with restrained strength, a reminder of the tremendous power coiled within his sinewy body. The dragon's eyes, sharp and intelligent, regarded them with a mix of curiosity and recognition. It was a gaze that bore the weight of countless experiences, a silent acknowledgment of the humans before him.

Sheepstealer's large wings, though folded against his sides, still hinted at their tremendous span. Every now and then, they flapped lightly, creating a soft rush of air that stirred the dust on the ground. The movement was graceful despite the dragon's colossal size, a testament to the innate elegance that resided within even the mightiest of creatures.

"Look, Aemon," Viserys said in High Vlaryian with excitement, his voice gentle as he ensured a small, specially crafted saddle was brought forth for his young nephew."We're going to take to the skies on Sheepstealer. Hold on tight, my boy."

With care, Viserys helped Aemon onto Sheepstealer's back, securing him in the saddle and ensuring he was safe and snug. Aemon's eyes widened with a mixture of wonder and trepidation as he clung to the saddle, his tiny fingers gripping the leather straps.

"Are you ready, Aemon?" Viserys asked, his voice filled with reassurance. Aemon nodded, his trust in his uncle unwavering. Viserys mounted Sheepstealer with practiced ease, his years of experience evident in the way he handled the massive dragon. He led his dragon out of the Dragonpit, the sun's rising golden light shown on the dragon and its riders. He patted Sheepstealer's side affectionately, whispering words of encouragement to the majestic creature."Fly, old friend,"Viserys said, his voice barely audible to anyone but the dragon.

With a powerful beat of his wings, Sheepstealer lifted off the ground, the rush of wind accompanying their ascent. Viserys held onto Aemon securely, ensuring the young boy felt no fear, only the exhilarating thrill of flight.

As they soared above the city of King's Landing, Viserys guided Sheepstealer towards the south. They ascended rapidly, leaving the ground far below them. As they soared higher, the buildings of King's Landing dwindled to mere dots, the once bustling city now a miniature replica beneath them. The people, too small to see, appeared like ants scurrying about their daily lives.

Aemon clung to the saddle, his wide eyes filled with a mixture of wonder and excitement. Viserys kept a firm grip on his nephew, ensuring his safety as they glided through the vast expanse of the sky. The wind rushed past them, carrying the scents and sounds of the city far below.

As Viserys and Aemon continued their flight, the sun bathed them in its golden warmth, casting a radiant glow across the vast expanse of clouds below. The sky stretched out endlessly around them, a canvas of blue interrupted only by the occasional wisp of white. They soared towards the Dornish marches, a region of wild beauty and untamed landscapes that lay on the border between the Stormlands and Dorne. The vast Dornish marches stretched out before them like a lush, green tapestry. The sun painted the landscape in hues of gold and amber, casting a warm glow over the marches below.

Beneath them, the hundreds of leagues of the marches unfurled like a patchwork quilt of grassland, moors, and plains, their colors blending seamlessly in the sunlight. In the distance, the imposing peaks of the Red Mountains loomed, their rugged silhouettes adding an air of majesty to the panoramic view. The land below was alive with the vibrant hues of wildflowers and the rich greenery of the grass, a testament to the fertile soil and the resilience of nature in the face of the harsh climate.

As they flew over this breathtaking terrain, Viserys marveled at the beauty of the Dornish marches. The sheer vastness of the landscape was awe-inspiring, and the tranquility of the moment was punctuated only by the sound of the wind rushing past them. Aemon, wide-eyed with wonder, gazed at the unfolding panorama beneath them, his small fingers clutching the saddle in amazement.

As Viserys and Aemon approached the site where Summerhall would be built, they beheld a scene of bustling activity. The once-empty landscape now teemed with workers, their hands toiling tirelessly to bring the vision of Summerhall to life. Twenty towers, tall and imposing, rose gradually from the ground, reaching toward the sky. Among them, a wooden keep stood as a testament to the future stronghold that would grace the land.

The great walls of Summerhall were already taking shape, a magnificent blend of wood and marble. Most of the structure was constructed from sturdy wood, expertly carved, and assembled to form the foundation of the castle. However, the true splendor of Summerhall lay in the large stones of marble, each one bigger than most men, meticulously placed to create the walls and towers. The marble stones, whiter than snow, seemed to glisten in the sunlight, casting a radiant glow across the construction site. While nothing was complete yet, however, Viserys could see the vision. It would be an imposing fort first and a grand palace second, and yet Visersy would not hold against others if they thought the priorities were switched.

Viserys observed the construction site of Summerhall with a mixture of admiration and awe. Hundreds, if not thousands, of men labored tirelessly beneath the sun, their collective efforts shaping the future stronghold of House Targaryen. Ropes and pulleys crisscrossed the area, their intricate mechanisms facilitating the movement of massive stones, each larger than a man, to their designated positions.

The wooden structures, meticulously crafted and strategically placed, served as the backbone of the construction project. They provided a sturdy framework and a guideline, outlining the layout where the colossal marble stones would be meticulously set. Workers moved with precision and coordination, guided by a shared vision of the castle's grandeur. The rhythmic sounds of hammers striking nails and saws cutting through wood filled the air, creating a symphony of construction that resonated across the landscape.

As Sheepstealer circled above, Viserys and Aemon continued to observe the construction below, appreciating the meticulous workmanship and the magnitude of the endeavor. The sight of so many men toiling together, their hands and hearts dedicated to the creation of Summerhall, filled Viserys with a sense of pride for his younger brother's work.

Viserys recalled his father, Baelon, speaking about Daemon's plans. His father couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction as he explained the plans for the fortified walls being constructed throughout the Dornish marches, leading the way to Summerhall. These barriers were not mere obstacles; they were a testament to careful planning and a deep understanding of military tactics. The concept was reminiscent of the Bloody Gate leading to the Vale, a famous or infamous defense structure renowned for its effectiveness.

The idea was simple yet brilliant: each gate leading to Summerhall would progressively become more difficult to breach as one ventured closer to the castle. The Dornish, known for their resilience and tenacity, would find their progress impeded at every step. Even if they managed to overcome one wall, the formidable challenge presented by the next would drain their resources and weaken their forces.

With each fortified barrier, the Dornish army would face an increasingly daunting task. The first gate, being made out of Blackhaeven, since the House Dondarrion had died out due to Daemon fighting for Lyanna's hand. The castle became far more like a large fort and from what Baelon had explained, a small branch house of Daemon's new branch would be sent there to the fort-keep, being named the Dragon's Gate. Each wall between the Dragon's Gate and Summerhall would be heavily manned.

By the time the Dornish reached the walls surrounding Summerhall, they would be exhausted and depleted, their morale worn thin from the arduous journey. The prospect of overcoming several heavily defended gates, each designed to be more impregnable than the last, made the idea of a successful invasion practically insurmountable.

Viserys' sharp eyes caught sight of the immense red dragon, Caraxes, laying near the western side of the Summerhall construction site. He knew instinctively that his brother, Daemon, would not be far off. Caraxes, fiercely protective of his rider, would never stray too far from Daemon, especially in times of potential danger. Daemon, too, would be close to his dragon in case something went astray.

Guiding Sheepstealer with practiced ease, Viserys directed the dragon to land near Caraxes. The ground trembled beneath them as the massive wings of the dragons slowed, finally folding against his side. Once they had landed safely, Viserys carefully helped Aemon off Sheepstealer's back, ensuring his nephew's tiny feet touched the ground securely.

Aemon, wide-eyed and exhilarated from the dragon ride, clung to Viserys for a moment before finding his balance. Viserys steadied him with a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "There now, little one," Viserys said, his voice gentle yet firm. "You did wonderfully." Viserys noticed that Aemon was drawn to Caraxes, not far behind. The dragon long looking to Aemon, turning it's head as if gaging the boy's worth.

Caraxes, the Blood Wyrm, was a dragon of terrifying power and presence. His sheer size and menacing aura made him a legendary figure in the annals of Targaryen history. Standing almost as large as Sheepstealer, Caraxes exuded an air of lethality that set him apart. To Viserys, he appeared thrice as deadly, a force of nature that commanded respect and fear in equal measure.

The dragon's scales were a deep, fiery red, shimmering like molten lava in the sunlight. His body, long and sinuous, resembled that of a serpent, making him distinct from many other dragons of his time. Caraxes' eyes were a piercing yellow, gleaming with intelligence and wisdom that spoke of countless battles and experiences.

What truly set Caraxes apart were the unique features that adorned his form. He sported a beard of sharp, horn-like protrusions beneath his jaw, adding to his fearsome appearance. Membranes resembling wings extended from his forearms, allowing him to navigate the skies with unmatched agility. Most notably, his hind legs bore similar wing-like membranes, granting him increased maneuverability and stability in flight. This adaptation made him a formidable opponent, capable of swift and precise movements in the air.

Caraxes roared at Sheepstealer to ensure the new dragon knew this land was the territory of the red dragon, Sheepstealer roared back lower, softer, as if to confirm this and not show a threat. Caraxes' roar was not the typical thunderous bellow associated with dragons; instead, it emerged as a strangled whine, a haunting screech that sent shivers down the spine of anyone who heard it. The sound was a testament to his fierce nature and the ferocity with which he defended his riders and territory.

Caraxes looked to Aemon, and when Viserys was going to take the baby boy from the dragon, Aemon walked closer, far faster than a baby should. Viserys was going to stop the baby before Caraxes growled towards Viserys, Sheepstealer was to intervene, but Viserys stopped his dragon; two dragons fighting a mere dozen yards from himself and a baby was not something they would survive, even if no fire was used. Caraxes looked to Aemon once more, the boy named after his first rider, the boy that was the son of his current. Aemon reached his hand out, and Caraxes looked for a second long before lowering its large head, larger than five times the size of the child, and placed it towards the ground for Aemon to reach.

Aemon put his hands on his snout and giggled as Caraxes purred, something Viserys did not know that Caraxes himself could do. Aemon, who knew High Valryian, far better than a baby should, spoke compliments and endearment towards the dragon. Viserys knew that Daemon, while a brilliant rider and a lover of flight, was not the best at loving his dragon. Aemon nurtured it, loved it, and Caraxes, who, like most dragons, hated the presence of others those of dragon blood if he had a rider already, showed an affection he did not even show to Daemon more often than not.

Viserys heard a chuckle behind him. Viserys turned his attention to the vicinity, scanning the area for any signs of his brother. Just as he suspected, Daemon was approaching, his imposing figure silhouetted against the open sky and construction behind him.

With a warm smile, Viserys greeted his brother as he approached. "Daemon," he said, his voice carrying a mix of relief and camaraderie. "It's good to see you. Aemon and I were just enjoying a flight on Sheepstealer." He gestured towards the young prince, who was now wide-eyed with curiosity, gazing at Caraxes with a sense of wonder and trepidation.

Daemon gives Viserys a hug; Viserys, while welcoming it, was a little surprised by the gesture. Viserys warmly reciprocated his brother's hug, a genuine smile on his face as they embraced. The bond between the Targaryen brothers was as strong as the dragons they rode. As they separated, Daemon chuckled and shook his head in a mix of amusem*nt and frustration.

"Viserys," he began, a twinkle in his eye, "you have no idea how boring it is to be stationed so close to Dorne. They've got their bluster, but when it comes to taking any real action, they're all too scared. It's as if they don't have the balls to make a move. I've spent more time waiting than having a true battle. Cowardly c*nts the lot of them."

Viserys nodded in understanding, smiled widely before letting a chuckle escape his lips, fully aware of the complex dynamics that governed the relationship between the Seven Kingdoms and Dorne. He had heard tales of the Dornish resilience and pride, but their cautious nature had its own unique challenges since it was akin to a viper in the sands, only willing to strike when they knew the strike would true and lethal.

As they conversed, Daemon's attention was drawn to his son, Aemon, who was playing with Caraxes. He observed with a smile as Caraxes seemed to have taken a liking to the young prince. The dragon and the child shared a unique bond.

Viserys smiled as he noticed the genuine warmth in Daemon's eyes as he looked at his son, Aemon. Encouraged by his brother, Daemon approached the young prince with careful steps, a sense of pride and affection evident in his demeanor. Aemon, engrossed in his interaction with Caraxes, remained oblivious to his father's approach, his attention fully captured by the magnificent dragon before him.

Daemon's voice, gentle yet full of pride, cut through the air as he spoke to Aemon, "Caraxes seems to like you, Aemon. Not many can claim such a bond with a dragon." He spoke in High Valryian to see if the rumors he had heard about his son's intelligence were true. Viserys knew that Daemon hated his father for taking him away from his own son but Viserys supposed Daemon would not allow his anger at his father to cloud a time with his son.

Aemon's face lit up with a bright smile, his eyes reflecting the pure joy of the moment. "I like Caraxes too," he replied, his voice filled with innocent enthusiasm. Daemon smiled smugly and turned to his brother. Viserys could see the wheels turning his brother's head, knowing full well Daemon would gloat that his son could speak well for a babe. The young prince reached out his hand, tentatively petting Caraxes' snout under Daemon's guidance. The dragon, normally fierce and untamed, seemed to respond to Aemon's touch with surprising gentleness as if recognizing the innocence and goodness within the young Targaryen.

Daemon looked down at young Aemon, his eyes filled with both affection and curiosity. He hesitated for a moment before asking, "Aemon, do you know who I am?"

Aemon's response was immediate, his voice filled with innocence and trust, towards his father. "You're my Kepa." Aemon said using the Valryian name for father.

Daemon's smile widened at his nephew's response. "Yes, I am," he said, his voice filled with warmth. "And do you know why I am over here, so far away from you, Uncle Viserys, and you?" he asked, his tone gentle.

Aemon nodded, his eyes wide with understanding. "You're making a big castle, Kepa. We're going to live in it," he replied, his voice filled with certainty.

Daemon's heart swelled with pride as he looked at the little prince. "That's right, Aemon," he said, his voice filled with approval. "You are very smart. We are building this castle, Summerhall, for our family. It will be our home, a place where we can be together and safe."

Daemon crouched down, bringing himself to Aemon's eye level. He smiled reassuringly and said, "You know, Aemon, once we move into Summerhall, you can ride Caraxes whenever you want. Just you and me flying on Caraxes from sunrise to sunset."

Aemon's eyes widened with excitement, his imagination undoubtedly running wild with the thrill of dragon rides. "Really, Kepa?" he exclaimed, his voice filled with pure wonder. However, a shadow of concern crossed Aemon's face. "But what if the Dornish come back, Kepa?" he asked, his voice laced with worry. "They might try to fight Summerhall."

Daemon was impressed by his son's astuteness. He turned to Viserys as Viserys mouthed the words 'lessons with the Grand Maester', Daemon nodded now knowing where his son leanred of the Dornish. He placed a hand on Aemon's shoulder, his expression thoughtful. "You're right, Aemon. The Dornish might come back, but you don't need to worry," he said, his tone confident. "I'm building a lot of walls and other things to protect us. Many people will be there to help us guard Summerhall from any threats." He paused, a proud smile on his face. "And, most importantly, we have Caraxes to protect us too. No one is better than Caraxes. He's strong and fierce, just like our family. With him by our side, we'll be safe, Aemon."

Aemon's eyes sparkled with curiosity and enthusiasm as he chimed in, "There are a lot of dragons bigger than Caraxes, Kepa. Sheepstealer is bigger, and so are Dreamfyre, Silverwing, Vermithor, the Cannibal, Meraxes, Vhagar, and Balerion. Grandfather Baelon rides Vhagar. And no one is bigger than Balerion."

Daemon chuckled at his son's knowledge, impressed by the young prince's keen observation. "You're right, Aemon," he said, his voice filled with pride. "Vhagar is indeed bigger, but remember, size isn't everything. What makes a great rider is the bond between dragon and rider, the trust and understanding that we share." He smiled down at his son, his eyes reflecting a mixture of affection and determination. "And you, Aemon, will be a great rider, too. Just like your father, you'll learn to understand your dragon, and to trust each other completely. With time and patience, you'll become the best rider there is, and no one will be better than you."

Aemon's innocent eyes filled with a mixture of hope and sadness as he voiced his desire to be a dragon rider too. "I want to be a dragon rider, Kepa," he said, his voice carrying a tinge of longing.

Daemon's expression softened, and he nodded emphatically. "Of course, you will, Aemon," he assured his son, his voice steady and resolute. "You have dragon blood in your veins, and you're a true Targaryen. You're destined to ride a dragon, just like your father and your uncle."

However, Aemon's tone grew somber as he continued, his small voice laced with hurt. "But Aunt Aemma doesn't ride a dragon," he said, his words heavy with the weight of disappointment. "Her kepa wasn't Targaryen, just like my muna isn't Targaryen." Aemon's face fell, his eyes downcast as he confessed, "I don't look like you or Uncle Viserys."

"You might not look like us, but you are a Targaryen, Aemon. You have my name; you have my blood. You just look like your muna and I am happy for it," Daemon says as he rubs Aemon's hair.

"But Rhaenyra looks like you and Uncle Viserys, and she has a dragon. Syrax is small, but she will be big. Then Rhaenyra would ride her," Aemon argues.

"And you are a Targaryen just like her," Daemon says, smiling. "You will get a dragon, and you and I and Caraxes will fly in the skies all the time," Daemon says, a soft smile on his lips.

"That's not what people say back home," Aemon said.

"What do they say, Tresy," Daemon said. Using the Valryian word for son. His eyes looking into his son's own deep indigo. He would not let anything happen to his boy. Viserys could already see where this was going and did not like the chances of Daemon not climbing on Caraxes and burning half the Red Keep in retaliation.

"People say I won't get a dragon because I'm not a real Targaryen," Aemon clarified.

Viserys coughed, nearly letting out a gasp; he never heard any of this, and if a two-name day boy heard this and understood it, why didn't he or the rest of the family ever hear this? Viserys could see Daemon's eyes darken. Daemon was close to snapping, but the presence of the son he never could spend time with was holding his rage back.

"What else do they say?" Daemon asked.

"They use a word I don't know," Aemon admitted. Daemon looked at his son and asked him to say the word. "They call me a bastard. What's a bastard, Kepa?"

Daemon's jaw clenched in anger, his hands tightening into fists as he turned to Viserys, his concern palpable. Viserys met his brother's gaze, understanding the depth of Daemon's emotions.

Turning back to his son, Daemon's voice was firm, his determination unwavering. "Aemon, listen to me," he said, his tone leaving no room for doubt. "You are not a bastard, never listen to anyone who tells you that. You are a true Targaryen, and you will ride a dragon. I promise you that, with every fiber of my being. No one will deny you your rightful destiny, and anyone who dares to insult you, will answer to me."

Caraxes, sensing his rider's fierce resolve and feeling the depth of Daemon's emotion through their bond, let out a powerful bellow and growl, echoing his rider's determination. Caraxes' raised its head to the skies and let out a screechy roar that unnerved all the workers around him. Viserys would find those who made those vial accusations and have their tongues.

Daemon tells Aemon to continue playing with Caraxes and Sheepstealer but to be careful. Viserys watched as Daemon walked away with a sense of concern for his son, the anger in his brother's eyes evident. Daemon's face was a mask of seething rage as he confronted his brother, Viserys.

"Who, in the seven hells, is calling my son a bastard?" he demanded, his voice sharp and biting. His eyes glinted with fury, his concern for his son fueling his anger.

Viserys met his brother's intense gaze and admitted, "Daemon, this is the first I've heard of such accusations." His brows furrowed with worry. "I had no knowledge of this before now."

Daemon's anger burned hot, and he spoke with unwavering resolve. "I'm going back to King's Landing to get answers, Viserys," he declared, his voice firm. "Our family should be protecting Aemon, and it's clear that we're failing if he's hearing such words."

Viserys couldn't help but be concerned for his brother's safety and the potential consequences of his actions. He countered, "And what are you going to do? Cut off the hands or feet of every person in the city to find your answer, Daemon?"

Daemon's expression remained resolute. "If that's what it takes to protect my son and uphold his honor, then I will," he affirmed, his voice filled with determination.

Viserys, deeply concerned for his brother's safety and the potential consequences of Daemon's actions, tried to reason with him. "Daemon, I understand your anger, but let me handle this. I will find out who is responsible and ensure they face the consequences. We cannot afford to act rashly; our family's reputation is at stake."

Daemon, his eyes ablaze with fury, was unyielding. "I will do it myself," he declared, his voice edged with deadly determination. "And when I find whoever is responsible, I will make them pay. I will slice them down the middle, rip out their heart, and feed it to Caraxes."

"Daemon, you cannot let your anger consume you to this extent," Viserys pleaded, his voice filled with urgency. "Our father would never condone such violence. You risk everything, including your own life, by acting so recklessly."

Daemon's gaze hardened, his resolve unshaken. "Not before I have the heads of those responsible for calling my son a bastard," he retorted, his voice cold and unforgiving. "No one will defile my son's honor and escape my wrath. I will do whatever it takes to protect Aemon and our family's legacy."

Viserys, his voice filled with genuine concern, pleaded with his brother once more, "Daemon, please. Let me handle this first. You've just met Aemon, and I don't want the foundation of trust and love you're trying to build with him to be tainted by bloodshed. If I fail to find the responsible parties, I promise you, I will personally inform you and help you root out the issue. But let us not act in haste and risk causing more harm than good."

Daemon hesitated, his eyes flickering between his son and his brother. He saw the sincerity in Viserys' eyes and felt the weight of his words. After a moment of tense silence, Daemon nodded, his expression still firm but slightly softened. "Very well, Viserys. I will trust you to handle this. But remember, if you fail, I will not hesitate to take matters into my own hands. Aemon's honor and our family's legacy are at stake."

Viserys' expression turned serious as he turned his gaze from Aemon back to Daemon. "There's several other matters I need to discuss with you, something of great concern," he said, his voice low and grave. His words hung heavy in the air as he continued, "Balerion, the Black Dread, has been stirred from his slumber. Deep within the Dragonpit, he has grown strong enough to roar. His roar shook the entire city, causing it to quake. This is troubling, especially considering Balerion has not been awake since it returned from its venture to Valyria."

Daemon's anger turned to intrigue. Viserys knew Daemon was cunning enough to know that he would not bring his son to him only for them to meet; there had to be another reason for Viserys to come personally. Daemon's surprise was evident, his eyes widening at the revelation. "Balerion awake?" he muttered, clearly taken aback. "This is interesting news indeed."

Viserys met Daemon's gaze, his expression weighted with significance. "The Dragonkeepers who ventured deep enough to witness Balerion's movements reported something extraordinary," Viserys began, his voice low and serious. "They observed that the dragon is growing, breaking the walls that confine him simply by his sheer size. Moved deeper into the Dragonpit caves. And what's more, the red scars that Balerion gained when he flew off, they are healing."

Daemon's eyes widened in comprehension as he processed the implications of Viserys' words. "But why now?" he asked, his voice filled with curiosity and concern. "What could have caused Balerion to stir once more after all this time?"

"Father has his own ideas but has refused to share them with me. He did say that there may be more magics in the air. He mentioned that mayhap dragons, being made from magic, needed a vast amount of it to heal old wounds, grow larger, and live longer lives."

"What do you think?" Daemon asked. Daemon's eyes looking to Caraxes as he gently pushed Aemon to the floor with his snout, Aemon laughingly standing backup.

"Nothing worth explain as of yet," Viserys replied. Viserys' gaze shifted to Aemon, his young nephew who stood before them, innocent yet powerful, a symbol of the future of House Targaryen. The unspoken answer hung in the air, a testament to the significance of the moment. Viserys continued, his voice carrying a mixture of awe and concern, "The Dragonkeepers have claimed that Balerion has been moving far more frequently in the last two days alone compared to the last two decades. What ever the magics may be, they seem to have awakened the Black Dread once more."

"The Black Dread moving about may be a pain. The smallfolk would give conflicting responses. Half would want him chained for being such a dangerous and powerful dragon. The other half would be celebrating the Conqueror has returning."

Viserys knew he had other things to say but no way of saying the words he wished. Viserys, however, looked thoughtful, his brow furrowed with concern. "Aemon has dreams," he began, his voice laced with a sense of intrigue.

Daemon raised an eyebrow, his curiosity piqued. "Dreams? Why do dreams matter?" he asked, genuinely puzzled.

Viserys explained, his tone measured, "These are not ordinary dreams, Daemon. Aemon dreams of being a dragon, burning down armies. He shared one with me, a vivid vision where he, with Vhagar, and another dragon, were burning the largest army ever seen. The banners bore golden lions on red fields and a green hand on a silver field. He described events of the Conquest as if he were there himself."

Daemon's expression shifted from amusem*nt to a mix of awe and realization. "The Feild of Fire," Daemon realizes. He exchanged a meaningful glance with Viserys, understanding the profound implications of Aemon's dreams.

Viserys' expression grew somber as he continued, "On other nights, Aemon claims to be a wolf beyond the Wall, hunting and slaughtering Wildlings and animals. He wakes up with the taste of iron on his lips, the iron taste of blood."

Daemon scoffed, his tone mocking. "And what? You think he's turning into a wolf in his dreams, Viserys? Do you believe in grumpkins and snarks too?" he taunted, his skepticism apparent.

Viserys met his brother's skepticism with a steadfast resolve. "Valyrian magics are real, Daemon. Our family's history is filled with stories of dragons, visions, and prophecies. If Valyrian magic can be real, why can't the magic of the First Men, the Children of the Forest, and other northern magics live as well?" he countered, his tone unwavering.

Daemon paused, his smirk fading as he considered his brother's words. The Targaryen legacy was intertwined with mysticism, dragons, and ancient prophecies. In a world where such extraordinary elements existed, the possibility of other forms of magic and mystery couldn't be dismissed outright.

"I'll endeavor to go beyond the Wall and speak to the Others themselves to get your answers, brother," Daemon said the final word with a over sarcasm and grandeur that showcase his lack of caring of dreams. "I'm more concerned of the little sh*ts calling my son a bastard rather than my son's dreams. He could f*cking be a pretty pink unicorn in them, dreams mean nothing to me, Viserys."

Viserys should have expected that. Viserys took a deep breath, his expression serious as he said, "There's something else I wish to discuss, Daemon."

Daemon, curious yet cautious, asked, "What is it?"

Viserys hesitated for a moment before revealing his intention. "A betrothal," he said, his voice steady.

Daemon's brows furrowed in confusion. "A betrothal? I will not remarry, Viserys. I don't need to marry to gain new heirs. I have an heir, and that's Aemon," he stated firmly.

Viserys nodded, acknowledging his brother's point. "It's not for you, Daemon. It's for Aemon," he clarified. "I've tried to have a child with Aemma, but miscarriages have plagued us. If we do manage to have a baby, there's no guarantee it will be a boy."

Daemon's confusion deepened as he processed Viserys' words. "So you're suggesting a betrothal for Aemon," he said slowly, trying to understand.

Viserys met Daemon's gaze with unwavering determination as he continued, explaining his proposal. "I wish for a betrothal between Aemon and Rhaenyra," he said firmly. "I will be king one day, and if I have no sons, Daemon, you will be my heir. I want our line to continue the royal legacy. By marrying Aemon to Rhaenyra, we not only strengthen her claim but also ensure Aemon's. It secures a strong Targaryen line, preventing any potential divides within our family."

"Was it truly you who came up with this proposition, or was it Aemma?" Daemon asked.

"Aemma does not fully agree with this plan," Viserys explained. "She said something of putting you so squarely in your position as my own heir that if you truly do something horrid there would be no way for me to remove you without scorning both Rhaenyra and Aemon. I'd be stuck with you."

"Wouldn't be the worst thing, I'd imagine," Daemon returned.

"Yes, Daemon. I imagine when the Stranger takes me and brings me to the seven hells, all seven would be of you tied to my hip for eternity," Viserys said rubbing his eyes brows before seeing the faux hurt in Daemon's face and laughing.

Daemon's expression turned thoughtful as he gazed to the skies contemplating something. "It could be worse, in truth," Daemon returned.

Viserys raised his eyebrow in amusem*nt before smirking slightly. "And how could anything be possibly be worse?"

"Being tied to you for eternity. Seven save me, I would need to be around you every day as you try to find stonemasons to rebuild Valyria. I'd have to hear you recite poems and histories far after my ears bleed of over use," Daemon said.

He paused for a moment, ignoring what his brother said, letting the weight of his words settle between them before continuing, "Moreover, this betrothal can secure the loyalty of the North and the Vale to the crown. Forty thousand soldiers from each kingdom were added to the crown forces, both loyal and steadfast. By uniting our houses through marriage and making sure the line is secure, both the North and the Vale will remain loyal to House Targaryen for generations. It will strengthen our rule and secure the realm."

Daemon and Viserys continued their discussion, each trying to secure the best arrangement for their respective child. After some negotiation, Daemon finally agreed to the betrothal but made it clear he wanted everything in writing, ensuring his son's betrothal would be legitimate and beyond question.

Viserys nodded, understanding the importance of the agreement's formalities. "You have my word, Daemon. I will draft the document, and it will be as solid as Valyrian steel," he assured his brother. Daemon still looked slightly skeptical, but he trusted his brother's word. Viserys then smiled, a satisfied expression on his face. "We have all the time needed to draft it," he said cryptically.

Daemon furrowed his brows, confusion evident in his eyes. "What do you mean?" he asked.

Viserys' smile widened as he revealed his plan. "Aemon's birthday is soon, and I wouldn't dream of allowing you to miss another celebration," he said. "I'll stay for two weeks. In that time, I will draft the betrothal agreement, and we can celebrate Aemon's birthday together as a family."

Daemon's expression softened, and a genuine smile crossed his lips. He embraced his brother in a warm hug, appreciating the effort Viserys was making to be a part of their lives. Then, turning his attention to his son, Aemon, he offered to take him for a ride on Caraxes.

During the stay at Summerhall, Viserys found himself immersed in moments of camaraderie with his brother, as if they were young once more. The weight of responsibilities lifted in the presence of shared laughter and shared memories. Viserys cherished these moments, reminiscent of their carefree days as children, where they would jest and jape as if the world beyond the walls of their room did not exist.

In the mornings, they would take Aemon on exhilarating rides atop Caraxes and Sheepstealer, racing and soaring through the skies. The wind in their hair and the rush of adrenaline brought a sense of freedom and joy. Viserys, balancing his duties, also played a part in managing the construction of Summerhall, ensuring that the grand castle continued to rise steadily so that Daemon could spend more time with his son.

Viserys felt a deep satisfaction in being there for his brother, allowing Daemon the precious time he needed with his son. It was during these moments, as he watched Daemon and Aemon bond, that Viserys felt he had succeeded as an elder brother. The sense of unity, the shared laughter, and the joy of family helped bridge the gaps that had formed over the years.

Beyond the Wall 99 AC

???

In the vast, frozen expanse of the North, beyond the towering Wall that separates the Seven Kingdoms from the mysteries of the farthest reaches, lies a realm of unparalleled beauty. Here, nature wears its pristine cloak, untouched by the ravages of time and the struggles of men. Endless expanses of snow stretch out as far as the eye can see, a vast, unbroken blanket of white that glistens under the soft light of the pale winter sun. Each snowflake, a tiny masterpiece, contributes to the overwhelming purity of this land.

Amidst the snow-covered landscape, ancient forests stand tall and proud, their trees reaching towards the heavens like silent sentinels guarding the secrets of the North. These woods, with no end in sight, are shrouded in an eternal stillness, broken only by the occasional whisper of the wind as it dances through the branches laden with snow. The frozen rivers and lakes, their surfaces glimmering like mirrors, wind their way through the heart of the wilderness, reflecting the tranquil beauty of the icy world around them.

In this frozen paradise, a creature of pure grace and power roams—the young dire wolf. Its fur, as white as the snow that blankets the land, allows it to blend seamlessly with its surroundings, rendering it almost invisible to the untrained eye. This magnificent creature moves with a fluidity that defies the heaviness of the snow, its every step leaving barely a trace behind. Its eyes, the color of fresh blood, pierce through the icy stillness, revealing a primal intelligence and a fierce determination.

Yet, despite its formidable presence, the young dire wolf possesses an eerie silence that is nearly unnatural, as if it is a ghost moving through the winter landscape. Its every movement is as quiet as the grave, making it a phantom of the North, a creature born of legends and myths, embodying the untamed essence of the wild.

Amidst the serene backdrop of the snow-covered wilderness, the young dire wolf feasted upon the freshly killed carcass of a large stag. The air was thick with the metallic scent of blood, and the once-pristine snow beneath the wolf was now stained a deep, vivid red, a stark contrast to the purity of its surroundings.

With primal ferocity, the wolf tore into the stag's flesh, its maw and fur smeared with the rich, crimson hue of the fallen prey. Each bite was accompanied by the sound of crunching bones and ripping sinew, echoing through the otherwise silent landscape. The wolf's powerful jaws and sharp teeth made quick work of the stag's remains, its primal instincts driving it to consume as much as it could before the unforgiving cold of the North claimed its meal.

The contrast between the wolf's pristine white fur and the deep red of the stag's blood created a striking and eerie contrast against the snowy backdrop. It was a scene of raw, untamed nature, where the circle of life played out in all its brutal beauty. The wolf's eyes, still as red as blood, glowed with intensity as it continued its feast, a reminder of the harsh realities of survival in the unforgiving wilderness beyond the Wall.

The young dire wolf, its senses heightened by the feast it had just enjoyed, picked up its ears and narrowed its crimson eyes as it detected the presence of intruders in its domain. Its acute instincts sensed the approach of a group of Wildlings, humans who had live beyond the Wall. Without a sound, the wolf blended into the snow, its white fur allowing it to move with almost supernatural stealth.

Silently, the wolf trailed the humans, keeping a safe distance while staying hidden in the shadows of the ancient trees and snow-covered rocks. With each step, it maintained a watchful gaze, observing the movements of the Wildlings as they led the wolf towards an opening in the wilderness—a vast, snowy expanse that revealed a sprawling camp.

The large opening revealed a sea of tents stretching as far as the eye could see, a makeshift village of Wildlings that seemed to go on endlessly, from one horizon to another. The camp was a hive of activity, with Wildlings bustling about, their voices carrying on the wind, and the smoke of countless fires rising into the crisp, cold air.

The wolf remained hidden, its red eyes fixated on the distant figures. It understood the danger of the situation, aware that these humans could pose a threat. Yet, it also felt a curiosity, an innate fascination with the organized chaos of the Wildling camp. It observed their movements, trying to comprehend the ways of these people who had chosen to live in such harsh and unforgiving lands.

The vast Wildling camp sprawled before the young dire wolf, an overwhelming sight that filled its senses with the sounds of tens of thousands, perhaps even a hundred thousand, people. The air was thick with the scent of burning wood and cooking food, mixed with the pungent aroma of unwashed bodies. The camp was alive with a cacophony of screams and chants, the voices of the Wildlings rising and falling in an eerie harmony that echoed across the snowy expanse.

Its crimson eyes remained fixed on the multitude of people, their faces painted with the harsh lines of survival in the unforgiving North. Despite the chaos around them, the wolf made no sudden movements. Instead, it stood still, its body tense and alert, while it continued to lick its bloody lips, savoring the remnants of its recent meal.

The young dire wolf, amidst the chaotic energy of the Wildling camp, tried to touch the bond it once shared with its former bonded. The connection between them was a thread of ancient magic, a tie that transcended lifetimes. In their previous existence, the wolf and its bonded had been inseparable, their destinies intertwined by a force stronger than any they had ever known.

The memories flooded back, vivid and poignant. The wolf remembered the warmth of the fire, the crackling flames casting dancing shadows across the snow-covered ground. Its bonded, a skilled warrior, would sit by the fire, cleaning his sword Long Claw with meticulous care. The wolf would lie by his side, their silent companionship speaking volumes in the quietude of the night.

In those moments, the wolf's bonded was more than just a man; he was a leader, a protector, and a friend. Together, they had shared the company of silver-haired children, his bonded's litter, whose laughter filled the air as they played with young dragons. The wolf recalled the bond between the children and their dragons, a connection as ancient as time itself, a reminder of the magical legacy that lived on in the blood of their family.

But despite the familiarity of these memories, there was a pang of sorrow in the wolf's heart. Its bonded, reborn into a new life, was not yet strong enough to warg, to bridge the gap between their souls in the way they once had. The wolf longed for the days when they could communicate without words, when their thoughts and emotions could flow freely between them.

The dire wolf's memories stirred, recalling moments when its bonded had dealt with Wildlings before. In those days, he had faced an army as vast as the one before them now, a sea of humanity stretching across the icy landscape. With unmatched skill and determination, he had led his forces into battle, vanquishing the enemy and, against all odds, forging a fragile peace with the Wildlings.

Now, faced with a new and even larger army of Wildlings, the dire wolf understood the magnitude of the challenge ahead. The bond between them was not just a connection of loyalty and companionship; it was a pact forged in the crucible of battle and diplomacy. The wolf sensed the urgency of the situation, knowing that only its bonded could bring this vast horde to heel.

With a patience that belied its wild nature, the wolf resolved to press its bonded, to wait for the moment when he would be ready to confront the looming threat. It would watch over him, ensuring he knew the gravity of the situation. Winter was coming, a harsh and unforgiving season that would test the resilience of both man and beast. The dire wolf remained steadfast, a silent guardian in the shadows, ready to support its bonded when the time came to face the approaching storm and restore peace to the North. Winter was coming, and his bonded would fight it with fire and blood.

Chapter 4: A Long Stormy Night

Summary:

Prince Aemon Targaryen has grown deathly ill during a terrible storm and the royal family prays that he makes it through the night.

Notes:

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Chapter Text

Red Keep 100 AC

Aemma Arryn

Amidst the velvety blackness of the night, King's Landing lay shrouded in an eerie silence, interrupted only by the relentless drumming of raindrops upon the cobblestone streets. The Red Keep, standing tall and proud atop Aegon's Hill, loomed like a shadowy sentinel against the ink-dark sky. Its formidable towers, adorned with crimson banners that hung limp and drenched, were barely visible through the torrential downpour that veiled the city in a watery haze.

The rain fell in sheets, driven horizontally by the fierce gusts of wind that howled like ravenous wolves, snaking through every crevice and alleyway, seeking refuge from the storm. Each raindrop felt like a needle's prick, stinging any exposed skin with a relentless intensity. The air was thick with the scent of wet earth, mingling with the distant tang of salt from the nearby Blackwater Bay.

Amidst the cacophony of rain, thunder roared overhead, a harsh and guttural sound that reverberated through the night, shaking the very foundations of the Red Keep. Lightning slashed across the heavens in jagged, blinding streaks, illuminating the city for a brief, electrifying moment. In those fleeting instances, the Red Keep emerged from the obsidian darkness, its stone walls glistening with a slick sheen, a monument to power and grandeur amidst the tempest.

The combination of thunder and lightning painted a stark contrast against the obsidian backdrop, casting eerie shadows that danced along the castle's walls, like ghostly apparitions seeking solace from the relentless storm. The occasional flicker of torchlight within the castle windows revealed the silhouettes of guards, their figures distorted and elongated by the flickering flames, casting eerie and distorted shapes upon the wet stone.

The tempest raged on, the rain continuing its assault, each drop a testament to the unyielding force of nature. The Red Keep, standing resolute amidst the chaos, bore witness to the wrath of the storm, its ancient stones weathering the onslaught with a silent, unyielding dignity. In the heart of the night, King's Landing lay nearly deserted, its denizens seeking shelter from the deluge, leaving the Red Keep to endure the fury of the elements alone.

In the dim glow of flickering candles, their warm, orange light casting dancing shadows upon the walls, Aemma Arryn sat in the quiet solitude of a dark room within the Red Keep. The soft patter of rain against the windowpane echoed through the chamber, creating a soothing backdrop to her solitary task. Aemma, the wife of Prince Viserys Targaryen, was an elegant figure in the subdued illumination, her hands deftly moving amidst the dimness.

Perched upon a rocking chair, its creaks harmonizing with the distant thunder, Aemma focused her attention on the prayer wheel before her. It was an unfamiliar endeavor for her, crafting a talisman rooted in the beliefs of the Old Gods, a religion she did not herself adhere to. Yet, determination gleamed in her eyes as she meticulously worked on the intricate creation.

With practiced precision, due to making small dolls as a child, she added sticks and twigs, each carefully selected for their shape and size. Her fingers moved with purpose, tying and wrapping the components together with twine and rope, forming the prayer wheel with a delicate yet firm touch. Despite her lack of familiarity with the ancient rituals, her dedication to the task was unwavering.

The room was filled with the earthy aroma of the materials she used, the scent of nature mingling with the subtle fragrance of wax from the candles. Aemma's brow furrowed in concentration as she continued her work, her thoughts focused on the person for whom she was crafting this peculiar artifact. She knew the significance it held for them, the comfort and solace it could provide in times of need.

Her features were a flawless tapestry of the famed dragonlords of old – hair spun of spun silver, cascading like moonlight, and eyes the color of amethysts, bearing the enigmatic wisdom of centuries past. Though her lineage bore the name Arryn, her visage bore the unmistakable mark of the dragonlords, a living relic of Valyria's ancient bloodline.Aemma had not rested since the storm started the night before. She looked tired, her skin clammy, her hair shriveled and stringy, her Valrian looks could only do so much to keep her beautiful while so worried.

In the midst of her task, Aemma Arryn's hands trembled slightly, betraying the calm facade she wore. The rhythmic pattern of her work on the prayer wheel was disrupted by the storm of thoughts that raged within her. Her worry, like a persistent shadow, clung to her every action, threatening to consume her.

As she meticulously crafted the talisman, her mind was consumed by fears, chief among them her concerns for her husband, Viserys Targaryen. Aemma's heart swelled with unease at the mere thought of her nephew, Aemon Targaryen, heir to Summerhall through his father, Daemon. Aemon's presence in her life was a constant reminder of the precariousness of their situation.

Aemma had never been able to warm to Aemon, a sentiment born out of prejudice and fear. She despised Daemon, with a passion that bordered on loathing. Daemon's striking resemblance to Maegor the Cruel, filled her with dread. He was ambitious; he was a warrior who rode a fierce dragon and was willing to slaughter anyone for his means. More importantly, both Maegor and Daemon had elder brothers in higher positions on the Iron Throne and, with one act, could usurp better positions from those who were born to it. In her eyes, Daemon was a dangerous echo of a dark past, a harbinger of chaos and betrayal.

Her mind conjured nightmarish visions where Daemon's ambition knew no bounds. She saw him plotting and scheming, a usurper in the making, willing to do anything to secure his position, even if it meant harming his own family. The vivid images that haunted her dreams were a gruesome tapestry of death and betrayal, with Daemon at the center, his hands stained red with the blood of kin.

Aemma's fears painted a bleak future—one where Daemon's thirst for power led him down a path of violence. She saw him plotting the demise of her beloved husband, Viserys, the man she had pledged her life to. Her heart ached with the intensity of her dread, her worry etched deep into the lines of her face.

Rhaenyra was not spared from her fears. Aemma envisioned a heart-wrenching scenario where Daemon, having secured his place as Baelon's heir, turned his ambitions towards Rhaenyra, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. The thought of Rhaenyra, strong and determined, falling victim to such betrayal was almost too much for Aemma to bear.

In the depths of her anxiety, Aemma saw herself as the last piece in this grim puzzle, the one with the least importance in the line of royal succession. In her fevered nightmares, she stood defenseless against Daemon's insatiable hunger for power, her own life hanging by a thread.

Daemon Targaryen, a figure of both disdain and concern in her eyes, haunted her thoughts. The mere mention of his name felt like a bitter taste on her tongue. She had never voiced her curses aloud, yet her resentment was an open secret known to those who observed the icy distance between them. Aemma's heart bore the weight of her unspoken curses, a burden she carried in silence.

Her husband, Viserys, stood at the heart of her concerns. Aemma admired Viserys' kindness, his gentle nature a stark contrast to the ruthlessness she perceived in Daemon. Their differences were vast, yet an inexplicable bond bound them together. It was a bond she both cherished and feared, for it left her questioning Daemon's intentions.

Viserys' soft spot for Daemon troubled Aemma. She watched as her husband's kindness and trust extended towards his nephew, even in the face of her silent warnings. Their mutual care for each other was a perplexing paradox, a testament to the complexity of familial ties within the Targaryen dynasty. Aemma wondered if Daemon's apparent affection for Viserys was genuine, or if it was a facade, a means to an end in his pursuit of the Iron Throne.

As her fingers deftly worked, weaving the twine around the prayer wheel, Aemma's mind swirled with doubts. She questioned the authenticity of Daemon's loyalty, suspecting that his desire for power might eclipse his love for his kin. The throne, a symbol of authority and dominion, held a seductive allure, one that could turn even the most steadfast bonds to ashes.

The rhythmic patter of rain on the windowpane merged with the distant roll of thunder, creating a symphony of nature's fury outside. The room was plunged into momentary darkness as the thunder roared overhead, its echoes reverberating through the stone walls of the Red Keep. Just as the tempest reached its crescendo, a sharp knock resonated through the chamber, causing Aemma to startle. Startled, Aemma's eyes darted towards the entrance, her hands instinctively tightening their grip on the prayer wheel.

"Enter," she called, her voice steady despite the undercurrent of anxiety that still gripped her.

The door creaked open, revealing the imposing figure of Lord Commander Ryam Redwyne, a stalwart member of the Kingsguard. His tall frame stood proudly, the weight of years etched in the lines of his weathered face. Pale blue eyes, tinged with a hint of sadness, regarded Aemma with a quiet reverence. Despite his age, there was a certain grace in his movements, a testament to the enduring strength of both body and spirit.

Aemma's gaze met Ryam's, finding solace in the steadiness of his presence. She knew him to be a man of honor, respected by many for his unwavering dedication to his duty. In his weathered countenance, some saw a rugged handsomeness, an elegance that belied the passage of time.

"Lord Commander Ryam," Aemma greeted him, her tone respectful. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit on such a stormy night?"

Ryam Redwyne inclined his head respectfully, his white hair catching the faint glow of the candles. "Your Grace," he began, his voice steady and measured. "I am currently relieved of my duties watching over the King. With the respite, I wished to check upon Prince Aemon given his condition, and I thought it prudent to see how he fares."

Aemma's gaze shifted towards the bed to her right, where Prince Aemon lay, his fevered slumber evident in the restless way he tossed and turned beneath the blankets. Concern furrowed her brow, and she gestured for Lord Commander Redwyne to approach. "He has taken a turn for a worse," she said, her voice filled with worry. "The maesters are doing what they can, but his fever persists."

Lord Commander Ryam's gaze softened with empathy as he observed the ailing prince. "I shall pray for his swift recovery, Your Grace," he offered, his voice carrying a sincere note of concern. "Is there anything else I can do to assist?"

Aemma hesitated for a moment, her eyes flickering with a mix of gratitude and uncertainty. "Stay with him," she said finally, her voice barely above a whisper. "Keep watch over him, Ser Ryam. I fear the night has only begun, and the storm outside is a reflection of the battles we face within these walls." The room seemed to close in around them, the air heavy with the weight of uncertainty. Aemma's eyes glistened with unshed tears as she spoke, her voice quivering with a mix of fear and determination. "The maester believes it's the pox," she whispered, her words hanging in the air like a haunting refrain. "He says if Aemon survives this night, he might pull through, but it will be a long and arduous battle."

Ser Ryam's jaw tightened, his eyes reflecting the anguish that mirrored Aemma's own. The harsh reality of the situation settled over them like a suffocating shroud. They listened in heartbreaking silence as Aemon's labored breathing cut through the stillness, each ragged inhale a painful reminder of the prince's struggle.

The room was filled with the sound of Aemon's coughs, the desperate gasps for air, and the pitiful whimpering that escaped his parched lips. His restless movements accentuated his suffering, his body wracked with fever as he tossed and turned in a fevered delirium. The heat emanating from him was palpable, his skin hot to the touch, a stark contrast to the chill that gripped the stormy night outside.

Aemma's hands tightened around the prayer wheel, her fingers digging into the wooden surface as if seeking solace in its rough texture. She dared not look at Ser Ryam, not wanting to expose the vulnerability that threatened to engulf her. Instead, she focused on Aemon, her heart aching for the young prince, robbed of his vitality by the cruel grasp of illness.

Beside her, Ser Ryam stood as a silent pillar of strength, his presence a reassurance in the face of despair. His gaze remained fixed on Aemon, his expression a mixture of sorrow and resolve. The Lord Commander, a seasoned warrior, understood the fragility of life and the unpredictable nature of fate. Yet, he stood unwavering, a guardian steadfast in his vigil.

Ser Ryam's gaze softened as he watched the suffering child, his memories offering a bittersweet respite from the present anguish. A small, melancholic smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "Aemon, he is a sharp one, that young prince," he murmured, his voice carrying a mix of admiration and sadness. "Cunning, too—more so than most children his age, or even older."

Aemma's eyes flickered briefly toward Ser Ryam, acknowledging his words but unable to find comfort in them. Her attention returned to Aemon, his labored breathing a painful reminder of his fragile state. The room seemed to close in around them, suffocating in its helplessness.

"He's always been a somber child," Aemma said softly, her voice heavy with concern. "Brooding, lonesome, as if he carries the weight of the world upon his tiny shoulders. Even in moments of mischief, there's a sadness in his eyes." Her words hung in the air, echoing the ache in her heart for the lonely little prince. She continued, her tone tinged with frustration, "And Rhaenyra... she's obsessed with him. Always trying to include him in her escapades, dragging him into misadventures, despite his quiet nature. It's as if she's determined to pull him out of his melancholy, even if it means getting them both into trouble." As Aemma spoke, Aemon's wheezing intensified, a pitiful sound that twisted her insides. She reached out to brush a strand of sweat-soaked hair from his forehead, her touch gentle yet laden with worry. "I fear for him," she admitted, her voice breaking with emotion.

Aemon's dark hair clung to his forehead and cheeks, damp with sweat and tangled in disarray. Aemma's delicate fingers brushed against his skin as she tried to gently push the strands away from his face, her touch tender and soothing despite the gravity of the situation. The howling winds outside the Red Keep intensified, their mournful cries echoing the wolves of Aemon's mother's House, a haunting serenade to the stormy night. Amidst the cacophony of the raging tempest, Aemma's voice cut through the tumult as she shared a flicker of hope amidst the despair.

"I once saw him spend time with the bards," she said, her voice barely audible above the storm's fury. "He loved their songs. He wanted to learn to sing and play instruments." A hint of a smile touched her lips, remembering the spark of joy that had once illuminated Aemon's eyes. "Aemon said something about a grand singer named Rhaegar," she continued, her voice carrying the weight of the past. "Aemon admired him greatly. He aspired to be as skilled as Rhaegar in the art of music. It seemed the very mention of Rhaegar's name lit a fire within him." Aemma turned to Ser Ryam, her eyes searching his for any recognition of the name. "Do you know this Rhaegar?" she asked, her voice tinged with curiosity. The Lord Commander's brow furrowed in concentration, his memory sifting through the annals of his experiences.

"I do not," Ser Ryam admitted, his voice steady amidst the storm. "The name is unfamiliar to me. Perhaps he was a passing bard, a traveler who left his mark on young Aemon's heart with his melodies."

Aemma's eyes shifted from Aemon to Ser Ryam, her brow furrowing in concern. The revelation piqued her curiosity and stirred a sense of foreboding in her heart. She nodded, silently urging him to continue, her gaze fixed intently on the Lord Commander.

Ser Ryam's expression turned grave as he continued, his voice lowered as if to keep their conversation from prying ears. "Two weeks past, in the early hours of the morning, I sensed a presence behind me as I made my way to the training yards. It was before the sun had graced the sky, earlier than most men rise to hone their skills. I could not discern who it was, but I sensed their presence keenly. It was no mere coincidence. Someone was following me with purpose, and I intended to find out who."

It did not take long for Aemma to put the peices together. "It was Prince Aemon who had been shadowing you?" she echoed, her voice laced with disbelief. "But why would he...?"

Ser Ryam nodded in confirmation, his gaze still reflecting the mix of astonishment and pride he had felt during that encounter. "Indeed, Your Grace. It was the young prince himself," he replied. "He had been observing me training and, much to my surprise, mimicking my movements."

Aemma's curiosity deepened. "Mimicking your movements?" she repeated, seeking further clarification.

The Lord Commander's face softened with a small smile. "Yes," he continued, his tone filled with admiration. "When I discovered him, I asked him what he was doing, and he replied, 'Observing.' But it was clear that he wasn't merely observing, he was mimicking. And he was doing a magnificent job of it.

Aemma listened in quiet awe as Ser Ryam divulged his secret, his early morning lessons with the young prince hidden from the rest of the royal family. Her eyes softened with gratitude, touched by the depth of the Lord Commander's commitment to Aemon's well-being. "You've been advising him in secret?" she repeated, her voice a hushed whisper.

Ser Ryam inclined his head respectfully, a silent acknowledgment of the trust placed upon him. "It is my duty and my honor to advise and aid the royal family, Your Grace," he said, his voice carrying the weight of his solemn vow.

"Why would a three-year-old be up so early?" Aemma mused aloud, her voice colored with both curiosity and concern. She listened intently as Ser Ryam spoke, his words carrying a weight of worry and sorrow.

Ser Ryam sighed, his gaze fixed on the ailing prince. "Nightmares often plague Aemon's sleep," he confessed, his voice heavy with compassion. "He dreams of dark and unsettling things— being a dire wolf in the distant North, visions of being a living dragon, and, more distressing, of dead creatures with piercing blue eyes that freeze a beating heart. The dreams haunt him, rarely granting him a peaceful night's rest."

Aemma's heart clenched in dread as Aemon's coughing intensified, the boy's wheezes and gasps echoing through the room like a haunting melody of distress. Her concern deepened with every ragged breath he took, the sound a stark reminder of his fragile state. The weight of her worry became unbearable, and she knew she had to act swiftly.

"Ser Ryam, fetch a maester immediately!" Aemma's voice, usually composed and regal, cracked with urgency. Her eyes were wide with fear as she met the gaze of the Lord Commander, her unspoken plea for help reflected in her eyes.

Ser Ryam's face mirrored her distress, and without a moment's hesitation, he nodded in understanding. With a determined resolve, he rushed out of the room, his armor clinking softly with every hurried step he took. He made his way through the dimly lit corridors of the Red Keep, his sole focus on finding the maester who could provide the desperately needed aid for young Prince Aemon.

Amidst the suffocating worry that enveloped her, Aemma Arryn found herself turning to the gods in her desperation. Her voice trembled as she uttered her fervent prayers to the Seven Faces of God, her words filled with both desperation and newfound resolve.

"Father, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Warrior, Smith, and Stranger," she whispered, her voice barely audible above the sounds of the storm outside. "I beseech you, in this darkest hour, spare young Aemon. If you grant him life, I pledge my love to him, as a mother loves her child. I will raise him as my own, nurture him, and cherish him. I beg your forgiveness for my past resentments. I ask forgiveness for hating Aemon due to being Daemon's child. If you allow him to live, I promise to love him, just as Lyanna Stark would have loved her son, had she not met her tragic end."

Aemma's prayers continued a solemn entreaty to each of the Seven Faces of God, her voice carrying her hopes and her fears to the heavens above.

In the midst of the escalating storm and Aemon's worsening condition, Aemma's hands moved with gentle urgency. With a heart heavy with worry, she dampened cloths in a basin of cool water, placing them on the young prince's fevered forehead, hoping to bring him some relief from the relentless heat that consumed him. Her touch was soft, her movements careful, as if she could will away the sickness through the simple act of her caring hands.

As Aemon whimpered and wheezed, his breathing labored, Aemma sought solace in the calming hymns she softly hummed, their melodies meant to soothe not only the suffering child but also her own frayed nerves. She brushed his sweat-soaked hair back from his forehead, her voice a gentle lullaby amidst the chaos of the storm outside.

"Hush now, my sweet boy," she murmured, her voice a tender whisper. "The storm will pass, as will this darkness. The gods are watching over you, little one. You are not alone."

She continued her soft hymns, her voice lilting through the air, a thread of comfort amidst the tempest. With every note, she willed a sense of calm into the room, hoping that her love and care would reach Aemon, even in his fevered state. Her eyes, filled with maternal concern, never left his face, her heart aching for the suffering he endured.

"To the Father," she began, her tone steady, "grant Aemon strength and wisdom, that he may weather the storms that life may bring. To the Mother, grant him love and protection, surround him with warmth and nurture his spirit. To the Maiden, bestow upon him innocence and purity, guiding his steps in a world often marred by darkness. To the Crone, grant him knowledge and foresight, that he may navigate the complexities of life with wisdom beyond his years. To the Warrior, lend him your courage and resilience, so he may face his trials with unyielding determination. To the Smith, grant him resilience and fortitude, shaping him into a force of unwavering strength. And to the Stranger," she paused, her voice breaking, "I beg you, do not claim Aemon's life prematurely. Let him live, let him thrive, and I promise to cherish him as my own."

Aemma's heart ached with the weight of her promises, her faith, and desperation interwoven in her supplication. She remained on her knees, her head bowed, her eyes closed, as she waited for some sign, some reassurance from the gods that her pleas had been heard.

The storm outside seemed to echo the tumult within her, the winds howling like lost souls, the rain battering against the windows as if seeking entry. In the midst of the tempest, Aemma's prayers remained a beacon of hope, a fragile light in the face of darkness.

As she concluded her entreaty, her final words were whispered, a desperate plea to the Stranger, the enigmatic deity associated with death. "Stranger, I beseech you," she murmured, her voice barely audible over the storm's cacophony, "spare this innocent soul. Let him live, let him grow, and let him know the love of a mother's heart."

Baelon Targaryen

The grandeur of the Red Keep seemed to shrink in the face of the roaring storm outside. Baelon Targaryen, a figure of regal poise, sat before the crackling fireplace, his eyes fixed on the dancing flames that cast flickering shadows across the room. The tapestries of Targaryen banners adorned the walls, their vibrant colors contrasting sharply with the darkness beyond the windows. Silks and golden ornaments adorned the opulent chamber, a testament to the wealth and power of House Targaryen.

In the midst of the storm's fury, Baelon remained silent, his thoughts hidden behind the veil of his inscrutable expression. The orange hue of the flames cast a warm glow upon his face, emphasizing the lines of age and wisdom etched into his features. His eyes, usually sharp and observant, held a distant, contemplative gaze as he stared into the heart of the fire.

The crackling of the logs was the only sound that permeated the room, a stark contrast to the chaos that raged beyond the walls of the Red Keep. Baelon's silence was profound, his mind seemingly lost in the depths of his own thoughts. The flickering flames reflected in his eyes seemed to hold a story of their own, a tale of ancient lineage, of dragons, and of a dynasty marked by both glory and tragedy.

Baelon Targaryen, in the quiet moments between thunderclaps, contemplated the challenges that faced his family, the burden of legacy weighing heavily upon his shoulders. The room, bathed in the warm glow of the fire, held an air of solemnity,

A heavy silence hung between him and the crackling fire, a silence pregnant with unspoken fears and the weight of the family's precarious situation. Baelon had wished to watch over his sick grandson, Aemon, but he trusted in Aemma's unwavering dedication. His faith in her was unshakable, and he knew she would do everything in her power to ease the young prince's suffering.

Baelon's eyes remained fixed on the flames as a soft knock echoed through the room. The Kingsguard stationed by the door spoke, his voice respectful and measured. "Prince Viserys has arrived, Your Grace."

"Let him in," Baelon responded, his voice calm but tinged with weariness.

The door opened, and Prince Viserys entered, his shoulders slumped under the weight of his worries. He sighed heavily before taking a seat in a chair near his father, their shared silence stretching between them like an unspoken understanding. The flickering flames illuminated their faces, casting a warm, amber glow upon their features.

For a while, neither of them spoke. The crackling of the fire was the only sound that filled the room, its comforting embrace juxtaposed against the heaviness of the atmosphere. The silence between father and son was a reflection of the unspeakable fears that gripped their hearts, the unspoken prayers for Aemon's recovery, and the shared burden of their family's struggles.

Baelon's eyes softened with relief as he turned his gaze toward his son, his voice carrying a weight of concern. "How is Aemon faring?" he inquired, his words measured yet filled with paternal worry.

Viserys met his father's gaze, the lines of fatigue etched deep into his face. He took a deep breath, his voice steady with a hint of exhaustion. "The maester believes he has survived the worst of it; chances are he will survive," Viserys replied, his words laced with a mix of relief and lingering anxiety. "He's a strong lad, much like his mother. Or is he more like as stubborn as his father?" Viserys chuckled at the end.

Baelon let out a sigh of relief, his gratitude toward the gods palpable. "Thank the gods," he murmured, his eyes momentarily closing in a silent prayer of thanks.

Viserys continued, his expression softening with a hint of admiration. "Aemma has been relentless in her vigil. She refuses to leave his side, even for a moment," he said, his voice carrying a note of amazement. "I've tried to convince her to rest, but she won't listen. Her determination is... remarkable."

Baelon let out a chuckle, the sound rich with both amusem*nt and affection. "Targaryen women," he said with a wry smile, his eyes glinting with pride. "Dangerously determined, fiery, and passionate. Aemma may not bear our name, but she certainly possesses the spirit of a Targaryen and her mother's Targaryen looks and grit. She takes after her mother in more ways than one."

In that moment, amidst the flickering flames and the echoes of the storm outside, Baelon found solace in the strength of the women who stood by his family's side. With newfound gratitude, Baelon looked back into the flames, a silent acknowledgment of the fierce resilience that bound their family together, transcending bloodlines and titles.

A deafening roar of the dragon reverberated through the city of King's Landing like a wrathful symphony of doom. Its sheer power shook the foundations of the Red Keep, rattling the stones and causing the ancient fortress to tremble in response. The sound eclipsed the thunderclaps in the skies, drowning out even the fiercest of storms.

The dragon's roar tore through the night with a deafening ferocity, a sound so loud that it seemed to reach into the very depths of the earth. It was a primal bellow, a raw, thunderous symphony of power that dwarfed even the mightiest of thunderclaps. The sound was not just heard; it was felt, a visceral force that resonated through the air and ground alike.

The roar reverberated with a depth and harshness that defied the natural order, a resonance that sent shivers down the spines of all who heard it. It was a sound that reached into the marrow of bones, vibrating with an intensity that rattled windows and echoed off the city walls. Each reverberation was a physical assault, a reminder of the awe-inspiring, terrifying might of the creature from which it emanated.

For a seemingly endless minute, the roar echoed, a sound both primal and terrifying, cutting through the night like a blade of chaos. The very air quivered with its intensity, and the people of King's Landing, from the lowliest commoner to the highest noble, felt a chill crawl down their spines. It was a sound that struck at the core of their primal fears, a reminder of a power beyond their comprehension.

Inside the Red Keep, the occupants were momentarily paralyzed by the sheer force of the dragon's roar. Baelon and Viserys exchanged wide-eyed glances, their expressions mirroring the shock and dread that gripped them. The normalcy of their world had been shattered by the unearthly sound, leaving them in a state of stunned silence.

In the wake of the monstrous roar, an eerie hush fell over the city, broken only by the fading echoes of the dragon's cry. The night, once filled with the sounds of the storm and the distant hustle and bustle of the city, now felt eerily still, as if the world itself held its breath, waiting for whatever horror might come next.

Never before had a dragon's roar carried such sheer power, such a bone-chilling intensity. It defied all expectations, striking a chord of fear in the hearts of those who bore witness to its terrible might. In that moment, the world seemed to hold its breath, awed and terrified by the unearthly sound that echoed through the night, leaving an indelible mark on the minds of all who heard it.

Baelon and Viserys as they exchanged worried glances. The city might have endured the roar without physical destruction, but the impact it left on their minds was profound. Viserys, his voice laced with trepidation, questioned his father about the source of such a fearsome sound.

"It's a dragon," Baelon replied, his tone grave. He smiled at the end. "I believed you have flown one enough to know the sound well enough."

"But what dragon possesses a roar that can shake King's Landing to its core?" Viserys pressed, his voice filled with a mix of awe and fear.

Baelon hesitated for a moment, his expression troubled, before uttering four words that hung heavily in the air. "Baelrion the Black Dread."

"But Balerion should not have regained enough of his strength to roar as he just did," Viserys said, his voice barely above a whisper as if speaking the words aloud might conjure the mythical creature from the depths of the past. "He may be healing, but no creature of magic or otherwise should be able to heal from wounds as grave, red, raw, and deep as the ones he sustained from Valyria. For gods ' sake, he fought the great wyrms in the fourteen flames. By all rights, he should be dead, not roaring with enough strength to curse the f*cking skies!" he screamed in whispers.

Baelon nodded grimly. "Indeed, he is. But perhaps... something has stirred. Something that echoes the might of that ancient beast."

Viserys had his own thoughts on the Dread, on the notion that the greatest of calamities now rose once more. His thoughts were more theories and crumpled up and thrown together in a ball, but he knew his father, Baelon, theorized something; no, his father knew something. "You said that the magic in the world must have stirred; you said this a moon before I flew with Aemon to see Daemon. But what could possibly have happened that stirred the Black Dread?"

Baelon's voice, low and contemplative, filled the room as he voiced his thoughts aloud, his words carrying the weight of ancient wisdom. "What event of great significance could have roused Balerion the Black Dread from his eternal slumber?" he mused, his gaze fixed on an unseen horizon. "Something of great import must be unfolding in our realm. I suppose I must ask my grandson once he heals from his illness." He said seriously as if never for once revealing the implications.

Viserys, his brows furrowing in confusion, tried to wrap his mind around the possibility that such an ancient and powerful creature could be stirred by events in their time. "But Aemon... It can't be him," Viserys said, his voice marked by disbelief. "He's just a child, and ailing at that. How could he be of such importance to a dragon of old?"

Baelon met his son's gaze, his eyes reflecting a mixture of resolve and understanding. "Aemon might be young, but his blood runs ancient and powerful. He is the only Targaryen without a dragon, and perhaps Balerion sensed the unfulfilled bond, the absence of a rider for the last of our kin." Baelon's weary sigh carried the weight of years as he chuckled softly at the irony of fate. "Daemon would be ecstatic," he said, his voice tinged with a mixture of amusem*nt and melancholy. "His relentless spirit, living on in his son. Aemon, the first rider of Balerion in decades. It's a legacy that would make him proud, I'm sure."

Viserys nodded, his mind conjuring the image of his brother Daemon, the Rogue Prince, riding proudly on his dragon Caraxes. He could almost hear Daemon's boisterous laughter echoing across the skies as he proclaimed the rebirth of Aegon the Conqueror in his son. The thought was both exhilarating and daunting, a reminder of the weight of history and the expectations that came with it.

"In Daemon's eyes, Aemon would be Aegon the Conqueror reborn," Viserys mused, his voice filled with both reverence and trepidation.

Baelon's eyes softened with a bittersweet smile as he spoke of Aemon's love for flying. "He does love it," he said, his voice carrying a touch of pride. "I've taken him upon Vhagar more times than I can count. There's a spark in his eyes, a sense of freedom, when he soars above the clouds. He's a natural, much like his father, just like Alyssa."

Viserys chuckled, his laughter filled with fond memories. "Aemon, along with Rhaenyra, would pester me endlessly to take them for rides on Sheepstealer," he said, a note of affection coloring his words. "Their enthusiasm was infectious. They'd spend hours in the sky, exploring the realm from above. We won't keep them out of the skies for long. Especially when Syrax is big enough for Rhaenyra to fly."

Baelon nodded in understanding, his mind drifting to a different time, a time when Daemon's laughter and Aemon's joyous cries filled the skies. "I can imagine Daemon and Aemon, flying Caraxes and Balerion high over Summerhall," he said, his voice tinged with both nostalgia and sadness. "Two generations of Targaryens, bound by blood and dragonfire, soaring together above the world they sought to conquer. It would be a sight to behold."

"Having Caraxes and Balerion at Summerhall would indeed be a formidable defense against Dornish invasions," Viserys conceded, his thoughts aligning with the strategic advantage of such a move.

Baelon, however, remained cautious, his brow furrowing in concern. "But if Daemon were to instigate another conflict with Dorne intentionally, it could lead to unnecessary bloodshed and unrest," he warned, his voice carrying the weight of experience. "We must be wary of Daemon's ambitions and the lengths he might go to prove his strength."

Viserys sighed, acknowledging the truth in his father's words. "I don't believe Daemon would endanger Aemon deliberately," he said, trying to find reassurance in his own conviction. "He's headstrong, but he loves his son deeply. He wouldn't put Aemon in harm's way intentionally."

Baelon's gaze held a mixture of concern and understanding. "I fear Daemon might see it differently," he said quietly. "He might view it as a chance to prove his strength, to shield Aemon from future threats by taking preemptive action. His intentions might be rooted in protection, but the consequences could be dire." Baelon's weary expression deepened at the mention of Daemon's inevitable reaction, his tired eyes reflecting a mix of resignation and concern. "Once Daemon learns of Aemon's condition, his illness, there will indeed be hell to pay," he agreed, his voice carrying the weight of the impending storm. "His wrath knows no bounds, and the fury of a dragonrider is not to be underestimated."

Viserys chuckled softly, the sound tinged with irony. "Knowing Daemon, he might just decide to burn down half the Dornish armies in his impatience to vent his anger," he said, a rueful smile playing on his lips. "Waiting to destroy something until he returns to King's Landing? That might be a test of Daemon's patience that even the gods would pity."

Baelon's expression darkened further at the news, his eyes narrowing with a mix of anger and sorrow. "On the idea of Daemon burning Dornish armies we are already too late," he said grimly, his voice heavy with regret.

"What did he do?" Viserys asks as he turns from the fire towards his father.

"Three moons ago a messenger was sent from Dorne towards Summerhall, but it appears that both sides lacked even tempers," he said, his voice laced with a somber tone. "Daemon's response was... severe. He sent back the head of the messenger with his own... gruesome message of retribution." Viserys raised his eyebrow towards his father to continue. "He cut of the man's balls, stuffed it into his mouth and sent the head back to Sunspear."

Viserys felt a knot tighten in his stomach, a mix of horror and disbelief washing over him at the gruesome tale his father recounted. "Gods," he whispered, his voice barely audible, his mind struggling to grasp the depths of Daemon's wrath.

Baelon's face remained grim, his eyes reflecting the gravity of the situation. "The tension between Daemon and the Dornish has reached a point of no return," he said, his voice filled with a somber resignation. "This act... it's beyond brutal. Daemon's fury knows no bounds, and it seems he's determined to make sure the entire realm knows it."

Viserys's exasperation deepened at the gruesome tale of Daemon's wrath, and in his frustration, he uttered a curse, invoking the gods' names in vain. He quickly crossed himself, seeking forgiveness for his outburst before turning back to Baelon. "And then?" he asked, his voice laden with both dread and morbid curiosity.

Baelon's expression darkened further as he continued the grim narrative. "Dorne sent two thousand men into the Dornish marches, hoping to retaliate. But they could not breach the Dragon's Gate," he said, his voice carrying the weight of the conflict. "In his fury, Daemon mounted Caraxes and descended upon them like a storm unleashed. The sky was ablaze with dragonfire, and the Dornish army was reduced to ashes, a grim testament to the power of a dragonrider's rage."

Viserys let out a weary sigh, his shoulders slumping with the burden of his family's turmoil. "Daemon craves a challenge, something to distract him from the worry of being away from Aemon. He craves a chance to prove his skill both with a blade and on dragon's back," he said, his voice filled with a mix of frustration and resignation. "He always has, and it seems that trait has only grown stronger with time."

Baelon nodded in agreement, his eyes reflecting a mixture of understanding and vexation. "Aye, he does. And at times, he can be more of a pain than I ever anticipated when he was just a baby," Baelon admitted with a wry smile, his laughter carrying a hint of irony. "You know, when you were a baby, you were far more chaotic and challenging to raise than he ever was."

Viserys raised an eyebrow, a surprised expression crossing his face. "Me? More challenging than Daemon?" he asked, his tone filled with disbelief.

Baelon chuckled, a weary yet fond glint in his eyes. "Yes, you," he replied, his voice carrying a note of nostalgia. "Daemon might be a handful, but you, my dear son, were a whirlwind. I used to say that you had the spirit of a dragon even as a babe, and it seems that fire has transferred to your younger brother as you both grew older."

Viserys couldn't help but smile at his father's words, a mixture of pride and amusem*nt washing over him. In that moment, amidst the chaos of their family's struggles, the shared laughter became a bittersweet reminder of the bond they shared, a testament to the strength of their family ties that even the challenges they faced couldn't sever.

Baelon's voice softened as he reminisced about a long-past memory, a tale of youthful exuberance and innocence that painted a nostalgic smile on his face. "Do you remember that time, Viserys, when you led baby Daemon to the Dragonpit?" he asked, his eyes glinting with affection. "You were just children. You led Daemon to the Dragonpit, convinced that it would bring you good luck and help you become dragon riders."

Viserys nodded, the corners of his mouth lifting in a fond smile at the recollection. "Yes, I remember," he said, his voice carrying the warmth of cherished memories. "We had to put mud in our hair, hoping no one would recognize us as Targaryens. We sneaked through Flea Bottom, thinking we were the cleverest little dragons in the realm."

Baelon chuckled, the sound a melody of parental amusem*nt. "Your mother and I turned the Red Keep upside-down looking for you two," he said, his eyes sparkling with the remnants of worry and amusem*nt. "You had us worried sick, but you were determined to chase your dreams, even at such a young age. We searched the Red Keep from top to bottom, but there was no sign of you. It was a servant girl who saw two small boys fleeing toward the Dragonpit. Alyssa, despite being pregnant, mounted a horse and rode like the wind. By the time I reached the stables, she was already galloping toward the Dragonpit, determined to find her adventurous sons." Baelon's laughter rumbled through the room as he recounted the sight that met Alyssa when she arrived at the Dragonpit. "Oh, Alyssa was furious," he said, his voice filled with amusem*nt. "There you were, kicking and screaming, determined to have a dragon of your own, while a Dragonkeeper, three times the size of an average man and twice as wide, carried you over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes."

Viserys grinned sheepishly at the memory. "I was quite stubborn, even back then," he admitted, his cheeks flushing with embarrassment. "I refused to leave until I had a dragon to call my own."

Baelon chuckled, his eyes twinkling with affection. "And there was little Daemon, calm and collected, walking beside the dragonkeeper as if it were the most natural thing in the world," he said, shaking his head in disbelief.

Viserys laughed along with his father, appreciating the humor in the situation. "Yes, baby Daemon was always the more sensible one," he said, his tone playful. "He didn't seem to mind being carried away from the Dragonpit without a fuss."

Baelon nodded, his expression fond. "Your mother had her hands full that day, that's for certain," he said, his voice filled with both amusem*nt and affection. "But in the end, she managed to retrieve her adventurous sons and bring them back safely to the Red Keep." Baelon's chuckle resonated with a mix of amusem*nt and understanding. "It seems the roles have reversed, haven't they?" he said, a wry smile playing on his lips. "Now you're the calm one, and Daemon... well, Daemon certainly knows how to keep us on our toes."

Viserys let out a soft sigh, his gaze fixed on the flickering flames. "I wonder," he said, his voice laced with both curiosity and concern. "Do you think Aemon will be like Daemon? Will he be as headstrong and daring when he is older? The boy seems to be far more lonesome and melancholic than Daemon ever was."

"Do you mean do I think Aemon will be as much of a pain in my ass?" Baelon asked. Viserys chuckles in response. Baelon considered the question for a moment, his expression thoughtful. "Aemon will be his own person, with his own strengths and challenges," he replied, his voice gentle yet firm. "But I have no doubt he will be a controversial figure, just like many Targaryens before him." Viserys nodded, his eyes reflecting a mixture of apprehension and determination. "Every good Targaryen and every bad one was controversial in their own way," he said, his words carrying the weight of centuries of history. "It's a legacy we cannot escape, but one we must navigate with wisdom and care."

As the thunderstorm continued its fierce onslaught outside, the fires in the room cast their warm, flickering light, and Baelon and Viserys gazed into the flames, lost in their thoughts. The howling winds and the relentless rain served as a backdrop to their quiet contemplation, a reminder of the tempestuous nature of the world beyond. Just as the tempest reached its peak, a sharp knock on the door echoed through the room.

"Enter," Baelon replied. A Kingsguard stood before them, its white cloak pristine and clean.

"Your Grace, Prince Aemon has awakened. The maester says the fever has broken. He's going to live through the night."

A collective sigh of relief escaped Baelon and Viserys as the news of Aemon's recovery washed over them like a wave of comfort. The storm outside raged on, the thunderclaps and howling winds underscoring the intensity of the moment, but within the confines of the chamber, there was a newfound sense of calm.

"Thank the gods," Baelon whispered, his voice carrying a weight of gratitude. Viserys echoed his father's sentiment, his eyes glinting with relief. The shadow of worry that had hung over them began to lift, replaced by a glimmer of hope for the future.

"Thank you for bringing us the news. Please convey our gratitude to the maester for his efforts," Viserys replied to the kingsguard.

The Kingsguard, his expression solemn, observed the scene before him, the profound relief evident in the faces of the Targaryen royals. "Prince Aemon has proven to be as resilient as his lineage suggests," he said, his voice steady. "He will be a great source of strength for your house, my princes."

Baelon nodded, his eyes reflecting a mixture of pride and gratitude. "Indeed, he will," he said, his voice filled with conviction.

The deafening roar of the dragon shattered the newfound calm within the room, its intensity far surpassing the fury of the thunderstorm outside. The ground trembled beneath them, and the very air quivered with the raw power of the creature. Baelon, Viserys, and the Kingsguard instinctively covered their ears, attempting to shield themselves from the overwhelming noise that reverberated through the Red Keep.

The sound was not just heard; it was felt, a visceral force that sent shockwaves through the ancient stones of the fortress. The vibrations traveled through the very core of the Red Keep, causing the walls to tremble and the air to hum with energy. The dragon's roar, lower and more resonant than the thunderstorms, carried a weight of authority that seemed to demand attention from every corner of the castle.

Before the door could close and the kingsguard could be dismissed the roar from earlier returned once more. The sudden roar of the dragon reverberated through the chamber, shattering the newfound calm like a thunderbolt. The sound was deafening, overpowering even the raging storm outside. The very air quivered with the intensity of the roar, and the walls of the Red Keep seemed to tremble in response.

The resounding roar of Balerion, the Black Dread, echoed through the Red Keep, its power so immense that it seemed to shake the very foundations of the ancient fortress. Baelon, Viserys, and the Kingsguard instinctively covered their ears, the intensity of the sound piercing through their senses. The thunderous roar reverberated with a depth and strength that surpassed even the fiercest storms, a primal force that left them in awe.

Baelon's eyes widened in astonishment as he felt the Red Keep vibrate ever so slightly under the weight of Balerion's roar, from the Dragonpit. There was something different in the tone, a quality that suggested not anger or aggression, but something akin to joy. It was a paradoxical notion, the idea of a dragon expressing happiness, yet Baelon couldn't shake the feeling that Balerion's roar held a sense of contentment as if the ancient creature found solace in Aemon's surival.

Viserys exchanged a wide-eyed glance with his father, his expression a mirror of Baelon's astonishment. The sheer power of the dragon's roar left them speechless, its intensity a reminder of the raw might that resided within the dragons of old.

Chapter 5: Aemon the Prodigy

Summary:

Aemon shows skill with sword and quill that far surpass his years, and the royal family quickly takes notice. While Prince Baelon makes a flight to Driftmark.

Notes:

Please don't forget to like and comment. I would love some feedback! Thank you for reading!

Chapter Text

Red Keep 100 AC

Aemon Targaryen/Jon Snow

In the heart of King's Landing, where the chaos of the city meets the serenity of royalty, stands the Red Keep, standing imposing as it is magnificent. Hewn from the ancient stone quarries that line the Blackwater Rush, the Red Keep stood proud and menacing against the dusky sky, its towering spires reaching for the heavens like the jagged claws of some ancient and vengeful beast. From the vantage point of the dragon's back, the castle's grandeur was unparalleled, an architectural marvel that whispered tales of power and betrayal through its every stone. The pale red stones, weathered by a century's of history, exude a peculiar warmth under the golden sun of the Crownlands, casting a bloody glow upon the surrounding lands.

The Red Keep is a testament to the artistry of ancient masons, its walls as solid and unyielding as the resolve of the kings who once ruled from its halls. Towering spires and turrets claw at the sky, reaching heights that seem to pierce the very heavens. Seven massive drum towers, each crowned with iron ramparts, stand sentinel around the castle, their dark silhouettes etched against the backdrop of the endless blue sky.

As one approaches the Red Keep from the bustling city below, the sight is awe-inspiring. The castle seems to emerge from the very rock upon which it was built, a crimson sentinel overlooking the mouth of the Blackwater Rush. The shimmering waters of the Rush, reflecting the sunlight like a thousand shards of molten gold, lap gently against the castle's foundations, creating a melodic symphony that echoes through its halls.

Inside, the Red Keep is a labyrinthine maze of corridors, chambers, and courtyards, each more opulent than the last. Grand halls adorned with tapestries that depict the epic tales of Westerosi history, vast chambers where the rulers of the realm hold court, and ornate bedrooms fit for royalty are all part of this sprawling citadel. The air is heavy with the scent of incense and the distant waft of exotic perfumes, mingling with the subtle aroma of polished wood and ancient stone.

In the skies above King's Landing, the Targaryen banners dance like fiery dragons on the wind. Each banner is a masterpiece of craftsmanship, displaying the three-headed dragon sigil of House Targaryen in vivid shades of red, black, and gold. The dragon's heads rear back, their eyes fierce and unyielding, as if they are ready to breathe fire and unleash their wrath upon any who dare challenge the might of the ancient dynasty. Against the backdrop of the azure sky, these banners flutter proudly, their presence a constant reminder of the Targaryen legacy that looms over the city like a mythical guardian.

Outside the towering walls of the Red Keep, King's Landing sprawls in all its chaotic splendor. The city is a pulsating, living entity, a labyrinthine maze of narrow, winding streets and crowded marketplaces. Buildings of varying heights jostle for space, their facades a patchwork of colors, from the elegant whites and golds of the wealthy merchant houses to the weathered grays and browns of the commoners' dwellings.

The air is thick with the scent of spices, the tang of fish from the bustling harbor, and the acrid aroma of smoke rising from countless hearths. Street vendors peddle their wares, their voices rising above the constant hum of the crowd. Merchants display exotic goods from distant lands, their stalls adorned with silks of a thousand hues, intricately crafted jewelry, and mysterious artifacts that spark the curiosity of passersby.

Amidst the chaos, a tapestry of colors unfolds. Nobles draped in sumptuous silks and velvets glide past beggars clad in tattered rags. Children play in the dusty alleys, their laughter mingling with the cries of street performers and the melodies of musicians strumming lutes and pipes. The city pulses with life, its heartbeat echoing through the cobblestone streets, creating a vibrant, intoxicating rhythm that lures both the hopeful and the desperate.

Aemon Targaryen had woken up early, as he always did for sleep never came to him easily. Targaryens, once more renowned for their silver hair and violet eyes, traits not obvious in his person. Despite his tender age, Aemon was burdened by the knowledge and maturity of Jon Snow. He recalled the feeling of cold steel in his hands, the weight of leadership on his shoulders, and the bitter taste of betrayal. The transition from a seasoned warrior to a helpless infant was a tormenting experience for him.

From the moment he could understand the world around him, Aemon knew he was different. He felt a profound sense of loss and longing, a desire to return to the life he once knew. at least to the loved ones he once had. He despised the vulnerability of childhood, the inability to express his thoughts clearly, and the frustration of being treated like an innocent babe. The memories of battles fought and friendships forged haunted his dreams, reminding him of a past that seemed unreachable, and yet his past was this world's future. That meant that the Long Night was the future of this land once more, and Aemon would not go along with that.

Aemon's earlier days were filled with a peculiar blend of frustration and determination. He detested the limitations imposed by his young age, craving for the freedom that came with maturity. His tiny body felt like a prison, trapping the knowledge and experience of an older man within its confines. Aemon hated nothing more than a baby, for unlike the first time in the distant future, he was a true babe then, but now, as a grown man of about three decades in the body of a baby, he found it restricting.

The thoughts of what could happen plagued him, from what he understood he was in the past, decades before the Dance of Dragons. Daemon Targaryen never had a child named Aemon, and never before had Lyanna Stark lived before and married into the Targaryen family save for his own previous life. His mere existence changed the game because if he, as a Targaryen, bounded with another dragon, then that would be one less dragon on either side of the future war or another dragon added to whatever side he so chose. The timing was horrible; he was a month younger than Rhaenyra Targaryen and was doomed to be a member of the Dance of Dragons.

Which side would he join, the Blacks or the Greens? By rights, Rhaenyra should be queen; the oaths were made to follow her. But if the Blacks win, with his aid, the Velaryons would claim the Iron Throne, and there was no proof of the rumor that if Rhaenyra had sat it, her children would be Targaryen by name. But more importantly, her children were bastards, and while he was a bastard for most of his life, their blood was only a fourth Valryrian blood; Rhaenyra was only three-fourths Valryian herself, and her former lover, father to the children, was most definitely not Valryian, and if succeeded, they may even further dull the blood. With less Valryian blood then, there was even less of a chance to win the Long Night since there was a lesser chance for Targaryens to claim dragons.

With the greens, a horrible president would be established, and a brother could usurp the throne unpunished. Then that would mean the Dance of Dragons would be as frequent as the Blackyre Rebellions had become in his time. With Targaryens at each other's neck, they would not be able to unify themselves, let alone the realms of man against the Long Night.

In truth, Aemon was glad the Dance of Dragons ended the way it did. Aegon the Usurper lost everything was horribly burnt; his line was extinguished as the cost of his victory. He may have outlasted his sister, but on a technicality, Rhaeynra had won, and in turn, her line continued on to lead to Rhaegar Targaryen. Her line with Daemon was the one that lived, and their children were more Valryian in blood than Rhaenyra herself. That may have been just enough Valyrian blood for it to continue mingling with non-Valryian blood over the hundred or so years since the Dance and given Daenerys and himself enough blood to claim their mounts and win the Long Night, at least the first one.

He needed to ensure that whoever wins, there is more Valryian blood into the fold to keep dragons with house Targaryen and give the future a chance to win the Long Night. But if he made certain choices, would his brothers and sisters live? Would Rob? Sansa? Arya? Bran? Rickon? Would any of the figures that give him the chance be alive? Would Margaery and Arianne?

Merely a month after his death, Aemon began to think of what could be done. Yes, he had won the Long Night, but was it indeed a victory if, in the end, the Night King succeeded and no living graced the world, even if the Night King himself died as well?

As the days turned into months, Aemon's silent rebellion against his fate manifested in small, defiant acts. Before he had even reached his first birthday, he defied the norms of infant behavior. With unsteady steps, he wandered through the halls of the Red Keep, his destination clear in his mind – the library.

Aemon's determination knew no bounds. He might have been a mere babe in the eyes of the world, but his intellect and memories of his previous life propelled him forward. His hands, still chubby and uncoordinated, grasped at the books on the library shelves. With great effort, he managed to pull out a heavy tome, heavy for a baby, its pages yellowed with age and knowledge.

As the chaos of the Red Keep ensued, with servants and guards frantically searching for the missing prince, Aemon sat amidst the dusty tomes, absorbing the wisdom of ages past. He read about the Long Night, the terrifying period when darkness fell across the world, and the Others emerged from the far North, bringing death and destruction in their wake.

Aemon's brows furrowed in concentration as he pored over prophecies and ancient texts, deciphering the cryptic warnings of the Long Night to come. It was Grand Maester Allar who found him, and the glare he received for distributing the prince from his reading was one he would not soon forget.

The maester brought him before the family and spoke about what he saw. Initially, the royal family dismissed the thoughts of a baby not even a year old able to read complex text that even some learned men struggled with. That was until Aemon spoke his first words, responding to the question the King asked the master about what book Aemon was supposedly reading. "Long Night. Long, bad, black, winter," he had said, and all heads turned to the baby in Queen Alysanne's arms. "Maester stopped me. I want to read," he responded even further. Not perfect speech, it was quick and blunt, for he may turn far too many heads, but enough broken speech for all to know he was no ordinary child. Aemon was confined to a baby's body, but he would not confine himself to the only thing he could use: his mind.

King Jaehaerys looked on in suspension, his eyes widening for a second before telling the maester that he would begin teaching Aemon immediately. Queen Alysanne argued against it, saying a child should have their childhood, but her husband would not waver. Jaehaerys, for a reason, neither Aemon nor the rest of the family, save for Baelon, wished to nurture this mind. And the following day, Grand Maester Allar did as he was bid.

Aemon's thirst for knowledge was insatiable. He studied the art of diplomacy, and honed his skills in swordsmanship, seeking any advantage against the darkness that loomed on the horizon. His tiny hands traced the symbols of ancient spells, his young voice whispering incantations that had long been forgotten.

Grand Maester Allar said the boy went through the material quicker than lightning. Aemon had never forgotten how to read or write, and knew most of his histories, even if parts of his memory were clearer than others on the subject. In his past life the maesters taught him High Valryian; his northern accent made it sound strange to most who understood. But in this life, he was not able to develop the northern speech. The Grand Maester would shout with glee that Aemon was a prodigy among prodigies, that never before had a child gone through books and teachings so easily.

And with that Aemon time learning and reading, Aemon realized something, something that he had overlooked. It was not Westeros who fought the most or the hardest during the Long Night. Westeros was war-torn for years before the Long Night began. It was Essos' armies that gave them a chance in the first bout. And it may give them another chance to do the same.

He asked the maester to teach him other tongues besides the common tongue and High Valryian. He wished to learn the dialects of the Free Cities, the language of Quarth, and the Dothraki, the language in Asshai, and everything there was in Essos, for he knew that it might do him good to broker some peace with them and establish a precedent for the future to follow to face off against the Long Night. The Master decided to start him with some of the dialects of the Free cities due to them being offshoots of High Valryian.In the years that followed, Aemon's extraordinary abilities did not go unnoticed. The maesters recognized his unique gifts, guiding him in his studies and readings.

Daemon Targaryen wished to return to Aemon several times, but not once was he allowed. Jaehaerys and Baelon stress the importance of establishing the new branch house in the Dornish marches and the need for Caraxes to be there. Prince Baelon even threatened to come and put his son in his place if needed.

During the life as a baby, Aemon had known much death. Lyanna Stark had died, bringing him in for the second time. His Aunt Gael, the last daughter of King Jaehaerys loyal to the crown, died drowned in the Blackwater a year ago, and Alysanne Targaryen, the Good Queen, passed just over a moon ago.

In the early morning light, the training yard of the Red Keep was alive with the sounds of clashing swords and armored footsteps. Aemon Targaryen, his tiny frame adorned in scaled-down armor, walked on resolute beside Ser Harrold Westerling, a seasoned member of the Kingsguard. The boy's eyes, far older than his years, met Ser Harrold's stern gaze with determination. The knight had his reservations about a three-year-old prince taking up a sword.

"Your Grace, I must commend your determination. It's rare to see such spirit in one so young. But, perhaps it's a bit early for such training," Ser Harrold said, his voice laced with concern as he tried to dissuade the young prince. "You're too young, Your Grace," Ser Harrold said, his voice firm but not unkind. "Fighting is not a game for children."

Aemon's gaze remained unwavering. "I understand, Ser Harrold," he replied, his tone surprisingly steady for a three-year-old. "But I want to learn. I want to fight."

"Your Grace, it is not yet time," Ser Harrold said, his voice firm but gentle. "You are still very young. There's no rush to learn the ways of the sword."

Aemon's expression remained determined as he looked up at the knight. "I want to learn," he said, his voice surprisingly steady for a child his age.

Ser Harrold raised an eyebrow, impressed by the young prince's determination. "It's commendable that you're eager, Your Grace, but even the bravest knights start their training when they are older. Your safety is paramount."

Aemon, undeterred, squared his shoulders and spoke with a confidence that belied his age. "Maegor the Cruel began his training at my age. I can do it, too."

Ser Harrold sighed softly, his gaze softening with concern. "Comparing yourself to Maegor is unwise, Your Grace," he said gently. "Maegor was a tyrant, a cruel and ruthless ruler. His actions led to much suffering in the realm. You should strive to be the opposite of him, just and merciful."

As Aemon and Ser Harrold prepared to continue their debate, the distant murmur of voices reached their ears. The pair exchanged a knowing glance as they recognized the whispers that accompanied the young prince's arrival.

A group of courtiers, gathered by the training yard, just bit away from the pair, they couldn't help but comment on Aemon's unusual appearance. "Look at him," one whispered to another, "he doesn't look like a Targaryen at all. Are we sure he's truly Prince Daemon's son?"

Another voice chimed in, questioning Aemon's legitimacy. "He spends all his time in the library, reading dusty old books," a lady murmured, her tone dripping with condescension. "It's not what his father is fond of. He looks and acts little like him."

The whispers grew bolder, fueled by rumors and envy. A brave soul among them even dared to utter insults about Aemon's mother. "My lord husband named his mother a 'Northern whor*,'" a woman sneered, "and him, a 'bastard' born of such a union. It's an embarrassment to the Targaryen name."

Aemon's jaw clenched, and he could feel Ser Harrold's concern growing. The young prince had endured such whispers for years, knowing that his appearance and his penchant for the library set him apart from the typical Targaryen prince. His memories of Jon Snow, a trueborn Targaryen in both lives, but in neither did he look the part, weighed heavily on his heart. While his hands gripped his sword, not once did his face show his inner anger.

Yet, despite the cruel words spoken behind his back, no one dared to confront Aemon directly. He was, after all, the son of prince Daemon, and he bore the Targaryen name, a name that commanded a certain level of respect and fear. And no man would dare anger the Rouge Prince himself, and that was without the consideration of Caraxes.

As the whispers of the crowd reached the ears of Prince Aemon and Ser Harrold in the training yard, the atmosphere grew tense. Aemon's small frame stiffened, his grip on the wooden training sword tightening as he tried to ignore the cruel words that floated in the air.

Ser Harrold glanced down at the young prince, his expression stern. "Pay them no mind, Your Grace," he said, his voice low and steady. "Words from petty minds hold no weight. Your heritage is your own, and the strength within you speaks louder than any rumors."

With a determined glint in his eyes, Aemon turned to Ser Harrold. "Let them talk," he said, his voice firm. "I will prove my worth with my actions, not with words. I am a Targaryen of the Red Keep, and I will rise above their doubts."

Aemon clutched the training sword tightly, his small hands wrapped around the hilt. It was a sword made especially for someone of his size, not as grand as those wielded by knights in their prime, but it felt right in his grasp. He turned to Ser Harrold Westerling determination in his young eyes. Beneath it all, he needed to be strong if he was to start preparing for the Long Night. It may be far away, but if he is strong now, he could speed up events to unify Westeros, bring Dorne into the picture, and be a better realm for the Long Night to come.

Ser Harrold hesitated for a moment, his gaze meeting Aemon's resolute eyes. "Your determination is admirable, Your Grace, but I am a knight, not a teacher. Training a young prince is a task that requires patience and expertise, qualities I may lack. At least let me get the Master of Arms."

Aemon nodded in understanding, his gaze unwavering. "I know, Ser Harrold, but there's a reason I want you to train me."

Ser Harrold furrowed his brow, curious about Aemon's reasoning. "And what might that reason be, Your Grace?"

Aemon's voice held a note of conviction as he explained, "The Master at Arms is skilled, I have no doubt, but he is not a Kingsguard like you. I want to be trained by someone who understands the importance of duty, loyalty, and honor. You've sworn an oath to protect the King and the royal family. I want to learn from someone who embodies those principles."

Ser Harrold nodded in understanding, acknowledging Aemon's reasoning. He sighed for a second before going to the side and grabbing a training sword himself. " I may not be a master at teaching, but I will do my best. Be warned, I may be as bad at this as a fish is walking."

"I doubt that," Aemon returned.

As Aemon and Ser Harrold squared off in the training yard, the older knight observed the young prince's stance carefully. He was prepared to point out a flaw, something to correct and improve upon. However, as he looked closer, he realized that there was something oddly deliberate about the way Aemon held his training sword. It was a stance so perfect that Ser Harrold couldn't help but be impressed, even though he couldn't put his finger on why.

But as he observed Aemon's stance, a strange realization dawned on him. The prince's posture was somehow perfect, his form impeccable. Ser Harrold's experienced eye scanned for flaws, but he found none, except for one subtle detail that gave him pause.

Aemon's stance held a lone, almost imperceptible flaw. It was a flaw that only a true expert of the blade would recognize, one that was deliberately made to deceive less experienced fighters. Ser Harrold's brows furrowed as he considered the possibility that a master swordsman had trained the young prince.

Aemon's flaw was a baited trap, an intentional weakness designed to entice an opponent to strike. The apparent vulnerability would tempt a less experienced fighter and would move to exploit it. But in doing so, they would fall into Aemon's carefully laid trap, exposing themselves to a devastating counterattack.

Ser Harrold couldn't help but be impressed, though he remained unaware of Aemon's unique background and memories. Aemon's stance spoke of a deep understanding of the art of combat, one that surpassed his tender years.

In the training yard, the clash of steel echoed through the air as Ser Harrold, with his longsword in hand, lunged forward in a swift, calculated motion. His eyes were sharp, his movements precise, aiming to catch the young prince off guard. However, Aemon, displaying uncanny grace and agility, sidestepped Ser Harrold's strike with a fluid motion that seemed almost effortless.

Aemon's training sword moved with blinding speed, a dance of steel and finesse. With a series of deft moves, he skillfully parried Ser Harrold's attacks, his blade glinting in the sunlight as it intercepted each strike. He was careful never to block the strike; no, Ser Harrold would overpower him easily; Aemon was just out of his infancy, after all. With each strike Ser Harrold made, he sidestepped and used his blade to graze the blade and not to deflect the blade but to show that many strikes could be made once Aemon was inside the knight's guard.

With a masterful twist of his wrist, Aemon's training sword found its mark, the tip of the blade resting gently against Ser Harrold's stomach. The older knight, recognizing his defeat, lowered his sword, conceding the victory to the young prince. Aemon's eyes, though young, gleamed with determination and fierce intelligence, a testament to his prowess on the battlefield.

The training yard fell into a hushed silence as the onlookers absorbed the sight before them. The courtiers, knights, and servants watched in awe, witnessing a display of skill that seemed beyond the capabilities of a mere child. Whispers of amazement and respect filled the air, mingling with the fading echoes of clashing steel.

As Aemon stood in the midst of the training yard, his young eyes gazing into the distance, he recalled the memories of his past life as Jon Snow. The weight of his former identity pressed upon him, reminding him of the responsibilities he had once borne.

He remembered the days when Winterfell had welcomed Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, into its halls. Jon Snow, understanding the imminent threat of the Long Night, had sought out Jaime for guidance. Under the golden-haired knight's tutelage, Jon had undergone rigorous training, enduring long hours of practice and honing his skills with a sword. The harsh winter winds of the North had bitten at his skin as he trained relentlessly, each swing of the heavy sword preparing him for the darkness that loomed ahead.

Jaime had shared the knowledge passed down by legendary knights of the Kingsguard, including scrolls and books authored by the famed Arthur Dayne. Jon had absorbed every word, internalizing the techniques and wisdom of those who had come before him. He had trained with swords that were deliberately weighted five times heavier than they should be, pushing his body and mind to their limits.

After his training with Jaime, Jon Snow further honed his skills under the guidance of Arya Stark, his adopted sister and fellow warrior. Together, they had sparred countless times, not only before the Long Night but after as well, their blades clashing in a dance of skill and determination. As Jon's abilities grew, he earned a reputation as the finest swordsman of House Targaryen, a title once held by his father, Rhaegar Targaryen, Aemon the Dragonknight, and Daemon the Rouge Prince.

In his current life as Aemon Targaryen, the memories of Jon Snow served as a foundation, a source of knowledge and expertise that propelled him forward. As he stood in the training yard, his small form wielding the sword with grace and precision, he channeled the legacy of his past self, embracing the skills he had acquired through hard-fought battles and relentless training.

The clash of swords continued a dance of skill and determination between the young prince and the seasoned Kingsguard, Ser Harrold Westerling. The sun cast long shadows as they moved, the blades flashing in the sunlight with every strike and parry.

Aemon's short stature and speed proved to be his greatest assets in the sparring matches. With agility that belied his age, he darted and weaved, narrowly avoiding Ser Harrold's powerful strikes. The knight's blows were mighty, too forceful for the young prince to block directly. Instead, Aemon relied on his quick reflexes and ability to evade, slipping through the openings in Ser Harrold's defense.

Time and again, Aemon exploited the moments when Ser Harrold's strikes left him momentarily off balance. With a swift sidestep or a well-timed duck, Aemon maneuvered himself into the knight's guard, his smaller blade finding its way to vital points with precision. It was a tactic he had learned from his own experiences, a technique he had once fallen victim to when sparring with Arya Stark.

Each time he slipped through Ser Harrold's defenses and landed a strike, he proved that he was more than just a child. He was a skilled warrior, a force to be reckoned with, his victories echoing the techniques he had learned from his past life as Jon Snow.

The training yard bore witness to Aemon's triumphs; his victories, which accounted for nearly half of the spares in total, were celebrated not with boastful words but with the quiet satisfaction of a battle well fought. And with each win, he grew more confident, his movements becoming more fluid, his strikes more precise.

Ser Harrold Westerling, a towering figure in his gleaming armor, faced off against the young prince Aemon Targaryen. Ser Harrold's strikes were like thunder, powerful and forceful enough that any grown man unfortunate enough to be hit would meet their end swiftly.

Aemon, despite his tender years, moved with remarkable speed and precision. His swordplay was fluid, each movement deliberate and calculated. His small stature worked to his advantage, allowing him to dart and weave around Ser Harrold's blows like a shadow, avoiding the full brunt of the knight's immense strength. To Ser Harrold, Aemon seemed like a mere annoyance, a persistent mosquito buzzing around him. He thought that if the mosquito bit, the sting would be bothersome now but lead to trouble later if the mosquito had an illness that could be transferred.

The young prince was patient, biding his time as he danced around Ser Harrold. He maneuvered skillfully, staying just out of reach, waiting for the knight to tire, knowing that in his weariness, Ser Harrold's defenses would falter.

Ser Harrold swung his sword with unrelenting force, his blows coming down like a hammer. Aemon parried, dodged, and countered, his movements graceful yet purposeful. With each exchange, he probed, seeking the weak points in Ser Harrold's defense.

Minutes turned into what felt like hours as the fight wore on. Ser Harrold's breathing grew heavier, his armor weighing him down, and his strikes became less precise. Aemon sensed the opportunity he had been waiting for. With lightning speed, he exploited Ser Harrold's momentary lapse in focus, sidestepping a particularly powerful swing and slipping into the knight's blind spot.

Aemon struck true. His training sword found its mark, landing a precise blow on the exposed joint of Ser Harrold's armor. The impact, while not as lethal as a real sword, was enough to register victory. Ser Harrold grunted, acknowledging the defeat.

Ser Harrold Westerling squared off against Aemon Targaryen once more. The older knight's demeanor held a playful edge as he addressed the young prince, his tone teasing yet tinged with genuine camaraderie.

"It's about time I put in more effort, Your Grace," Ser Harrold remarked with a wry smile, his eyes crinkling at the corners. "You're hurting my pride as a knight. Perhaps I should remind you that you're still just a child."

Aemon met Ser Harrold's jest with a determined glint in his eyes, his grip on the training sword tightening. He was well aware of the knight's intention to push him, to test his limits, and ensure he didn't grow overly confident. The young prince's pride, already steeled by his victories, was a double-edged sword, a source of strength and a potential vulnerability.

As the bout commenced, it became evident that Ser Harrold was in control. He no longer treated him as a babe of three but now as something a kin to a squire. Aemon was going to get his ass handed to him on a silver platter, and he was glad for it. Honestly if a kingsgaurd, while going serious, lost a child then Aemon would have to question their worth as a kinsguard.

His strikes were deliberate and calculated, each blow aimed with precision. Aemon, despite his agile movements and quick reflexes, found himself on the defensive. The older knight's experience and strength seemed insurmountable, his blows forcing Aemon to step back, to parry and block, his arms straining under the impact.

The training yard fell into a hushed tension as the spectators watched the battle unfold. Aemon's determination shone bright, but Ser Harrold's skill and power were undeniable. With each clash of their swords, it became clear that the young prince was facing a formidable opponent and the boy whose skill could best some squires, would get beaten soundly by a knight. The sound truth was that the boy's body was not yet the level of his enate tallent.

Aemon fought valiantly, his brow furrowed in concentration, but he struggled to match Ser Harrold's relentless onslaught. The knight's strikes came faster, his footwork impeccable, and Aemon found himself gradually being pushed backward across the yard.

Ser Harrold's movements were fluid, a dance of practiced grace and strength. He deftly maneuvered around Aemon's defenses, exploiting every opening, every hesitation. Aemon's breath came in labored gasps, his arms growing heavy, but he refused to yield. He knew that this fight was more than just a sparring match; it was a test of his resilience, a lesson in humility.

Aemon on the defensive, desperately trying to parry Ser Harrold's relentless onslaught. The young prince's arms grew heavy under the weight of the blows, and his breaths came in ragged gasps as he struggled to keep up with the seasoned knight. With each strike, Ser Harrold pushed Aemon further back, steadily gaining ground and wearing down the young prince's defenses.

Ser Harrold's strikes came at him like a storm, a barrage of steel that left little room for the young prince to respond. The older knight's aggression was unyielding, his attacks repetitive yet unpredictable, leaving Aemon struggling to find an opening.

The young prince fought with all his might, his training sword parrying and blocking as best he could. But Ser Harrold's strikes were too fast, too powerful. Aemon felt the impact of each blow reverberated through his arms, the strain of defending against such an onslaught taking its toll.

Despite his efforts, Aemon could not find a way to counter Ser Harrold's relentless assault. The older knight's skill and experience were evident, his aggressive style leaving no room for the young prince to maneuver or launch a meaningful counterattack. Aemon's world became a whirlwind of flashing steel and pounding footsteps, his focus narrowing down to the immediate need to defend himself against the overwhelming force of Ser Harrold's strikes.

As the fight wore on, Aemon's movements grew more sluggish, his arms heavy with fatigue. Ser Harrold pressed on, his strikes unyielding, his determination unwavering. It became clear to everyone watching that even some seasoned squires might not have endured as long as Aemon did against such a formidable opponent, the boy was three.

In the end, Aemon's defense faltered. Ser Harrold's blade found an opening, and with a swift strike, he disarmed the young prince, sending the training sword clattering to the ground. Aemon stumbled backward, his breaths coming in ragged gasps, his face flushed with exertion and frustration. Ser Harrold stood tall, his chest heaving, his victory absolute.

Aemon had grown too confident; the knight had been taking it easy on him like any grown man would on a child. He could see what moves Ser Harrold was going to take, but Aemon was too slow and too weak to do anything about it.

The training yard fell silent, the onlookers in awe of the display of skill they had witnessed. As he picked up his training sword, his gaze remained fixed on Ser Harrold, a mix of determination and respect in his eyes.

Ser Harrold did not feel pride in his victory; Aemon was but a child. He would not take pride in beating a three-year-old babe in a fight. The child was like a living shadow, everywhere and yet nowhere. Aemon was just out of reach, and the knight found it irritating. Ser Harrold had seen it as a lose-lose, lose to a child or beat a child, and he liked neither of them. But the people in attendance knew the truth; while Aemon had lost, he had done so with far more difficulty than any child of his age should. Ser Harrold, more so than any other person, wondered how the child would be in a few year's time.

Aemon stood there, his chest rising and falling with exertion, a quiet determination in his eyes. No one made a sound until clapping could be heard; everyone turned to the balcony, looking over the training yard, and saw crown prince Baelon clapping for his grandchild.

"I was wondering if Daemon and Lyanna transferred any of their skill with a blade to their child," he said loudly.

The clapping continued as another added soon after, then another. After some time, the entire training yard was in a cheer. Aemon said nothing but lowered his head in acknowledgment before walking off the field.

The word of what happened spread like wildfire, and the entire keep heard of the incident within the hour. Aemon had fought better than most men and fought Ser Harrold and gained many victories out of the dozen spars on that day.

Aemon knew his plan, knew how he would act if he were to prepare the realm for the Long Night to come. Rhaegar Targaryen was seen as arguably one of the best princes in the Targaryen line. He could sing, he was cunning and witty, and he was one of the best swordsmen to have ever been. He fought valiantly; he fought bravely and honorably, and he died. And yet, after his death, the only person to have bad words of him after his death was Robert Baratheon. Only the person who had killed him had bad things to say. Even people who should have hated him on principle alone due to fighting against him in Robert's Rebellion had nothing bad to say but rather did not admit the good qualities he had.

In this life, if he is to fight off against the Long Night, he would need to be the best prince he can be, like his father, and ensure he did not make the one mistake that crippled the Targaryens, enrage a lord paramount. But even that was under many exceptions that led to the rebellion winning. Things such as the powers of house Westeros slowly being returned to the Lords paramount, especially after Tywin Lannister became hand for the first time under Aerys. Tyrion, his hand after he became King in his past life, had urged him to learn from the past or doom his house to repeat the mistakes; he said that time was like a wheel and everything will always come full circle once more.

He would keep the powers in the hands of House Targaryen; he would be the perfect prince. He would not allow the strength to be brought to Lords paramount and leave house Targaryen to their mercy and bargen to keep the crown like Rhaegar was going to do at the tourney of Harrenhall with the alliance of Stark, Tully, Arryn, and Baratheon before Rhaegar and Lyanna disappeared angering the alliance he wished to gain the support of to overthrow his father, Aerys.

One thing that would give house Tarargyen the chance to retain their centralized power would be keeping the dragons. The only way that would work is if they avoid the Dance of Dragons, which is impossible if Aemma dies still without giving Viserys a male heir. Also becuase he was but a child and could not convince Viserys not to pick Alicent Hightower to wife because he did not know when her seduction began or where they were when it happened. And frankly, Aemon would not put it past Corlys to take the chance to convince his daughter Laena to do a similar thing if the two wed, and considering the fact that that she was the only other true contender for the position besides Alicent, it was not a good idea since the new divided house Targaryen would still be dragon riders but now with the help of the Velaryon fleet at the beginning of the fighting, not something Aemon would entertain. If Viserys marries another house, they risk another lord paramount, supporting the opposing side of Rhaenyra and having an entire lord paramount and their vassal lords against her that might have been on her side in the initial history was not the best scenario.

With Viserys marrying Alicent, they have only one Reach house supporting them rather than nearly a hundred thousand troops. Viserys would marry Alicent; she would have her children, and Rhaenyra would face them. Rhaeynra had the most dragons at the beginning of the fighting, and if Aemon supported her, there was a larger chance more dragons survived, especially since he had a general idea of the battles in the Dance of Dragons, even if now, for some gods' forsaken reason, his memory was slowly growing more clouded of the specific details.

The war was coming either way. But for now, Aemon would prepare not only for the dance to come but also for the night that follows later.

Driftmark 100 AC

Baelon Targaryen

Baelon Targaryen, the valiant heir to the throne of Dragonstone flew upon his dragon's back. With silver hair cascading down his shoulders and violet eyes that mirrored the depths of the sea. But it was not just his looks that set him apart; it was his courage and adventurous spirit that made him a legend. Baelon the Brave, they call him, but for now, this was to be the bravest thing he had done yet, righting a wrong and reconciling the breach in the house of the dragon.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, painting the skies with hues of orange and purple, Baelon mounted the mighty dragon Vhagar. With wings that spanned the heavens, Vhagar was a symbol of power and majesty. Together, they soared over the Red Keep, leaving behind a trail of awe-struck onlookers. The wind whipped through Baelon's hair as he guided Vhagar westward towards the tranquil waters of Blackwater Bay.

Their destination was Driftmark, the ancestral seat of House Velaryon. The island, with its dark stone keep, stood proudly amidst the waters, a testament to centuries of Velaryon history. As Baelon and Vhagar descended upon the island, the people of Driftmark marveled at the sight of the prince and his dragon.

Driftmark, an island shrouded in mist and storms, laid to the west of Dragonstone in the heart of Blackwater Bay. The castle, though grim-looking, held an air of ancient beauty, its dark, salt-stained walls bearing witness to centuries of history. Despite its seemingly inhospitable appearance, Driftmark bore the mark of dragonkind upon its stones. While it shared the same dark, rugged characteristics as Dragonstone, the designs etched into its walls set it apart. No dragons were etched and engrained into the side of the castle, and years of storms had made the walls encrusted with some barnacles and were weathered by storms. As Baelon and Vhagar approached, the imposing silhouette of the castle emerged from the fog, its towers reaching for the heavens amidst the surrounding gloom.

Within the castle keep, made of the same dark stones that characterized the outer walls, the tapestries and banners of House Velaryon proudly hung, displaying the sigil that defined their identity—a silver seahorse on a sea green background. These symbols of the house's maritime heritage fluttered gently in the sea breeze, reminding all who beheld them of the Velaryons' mastery over the waves and their allegiance to the Targaryen dynasty.

Upon landing, Prince Baelon was greeted by the lords and ladies of House Velaryon, their silver seahorse sigil proudly displayed on sea green banners and tapestries that adorned the keep's walls. The castle itself, despite its appearance, held an undeniable allure, steeped in the legacy of the seafaring Velaryons.

Inside the keep, Baelon found himself surrounded by the rich tapestries depicting the adventures of House Velaryon, their seafaring prowess, and their loyalty to House Targaryen. The silver seahorse was emblazoned on every piece of fabric, a testament to their ancestral connection to the sea.

As Baelon was led into the opulent chamber, to a large chamber to met the head of the house. Tapestries adorned the walls glittered under the warm glow of chandeliers. In the midst of this comely room, almost pretentiousness, stood Corlys Velaryon, his eyes sharp and shrewd, his voice as smooth as the waves on a calm day. The room they were in was a testament to Corlys's wealth and accomplishments, adorned with silks, tapestries, gold, jewels, and trophies from his grand adventures.

"Prince Baelon," Corlys said, his voice smooth as silk, "it is an honor to host you in our humble abode. Your arrival graces us with the presence of Dragonstone's noble heir. Please, make yourself comfortable." Baelon fought the urge to chuckle at words so perfect they seemed rehearsed, considering the act that both Corlys and his wife hated Baelon, he would not have put it past them to do so to ensure they did not disrespect him out right.

Baelon, feigning gratitude, replied with a polite smile, "Thank you, Lord Corlys. Your hospitality is truly appreciated. I have heard much about your daring exploits and remarkable voyages, but never had I had the chance to see the trophies of them in person. Your fame has always preceded you."

Corlys, his eyes glinting with hidden motives, nodded graciously. "Ah, the tales do tend to exaggerate, my prince. But I am humbled by your kind words. Tell me, what brings you to Driftmark? I assume it is not merely the pleasure of my company that graces us today."

As they exchanged pleasantries, the heavy door creaked open, revealing Princess Rhaeyns, her smile as radiant as a summer sunrise, yet every soul in the room could sense the insincerity that hid behind it. She approached Baelon, curtsying gracefully.

"Uncle Baelon, how wonderful to see you," she said, her voice sweet but her eyes betraying her true feelings, at least it only revealed themselves to those who spent most of their days in King's Landing like Baelon did, it seemed to him that Rhaenys was slightly out of practice.

Baelon bowed slightly, maintaining his composure. "Neice! Princess Rhaeyns, the pleasure is mine. I am grateful for your warm welcome."

Corlys, ever the diplomat, interjected smoothly, "We were just discussing the fascinating history of Driftmark and some of the trophies from the voyages. I'm sure you would find it quite intriguing, Prince Baelon."

Baelon nodded, playing along. "Indeed, I've heard much about the storied past of House Velaryon. I would be honored to learn more."

Despite the polite exchange, an undercurrent of tension hung in the air, palpable to all present. The strained smiles and forced pleasantries masked the deeper animosity between the princess, her husband, and Baelon. It was a delicate dance of words and gestures, each participant carefully choosing their steps to avoid stepping on the other's toes.

"Now, your grace, I believe that you did not come here soely for the details of another man's exploits," Lord Corlys supplied after gesture to seat.

Baelon met Corlys's gaze with determination, his eyes reflecting the seriousness of his intent. "Lord Velaryon, the division between our houses has persisted for far too long," he began, his voice steady. "While the realm perceives an illusion of unity, we both know the truth. Two vital branches of the house of the dragon remain apart, and this disunity does not sit well with King Jaehaerys nor myself."

"House Vaelryon is and shall always be loyal to the crown, your grace," Lord Corlys explained.

Baelon's voice softened as he addressed the elephant in the room, acknowledging the longstanding resentment that had festered between their families. "I am aware of the history, Lord Velaryon. The decision to name me Prince of Dragonstone instead of my dear niece Rhaenys has caused bitterness and resentment within House Targaryen and House Velaryon. I understand the pain it has caused Princess Rhaenys and her family, and for that, I am truly sorry."

"My dislike for the decisions made does not extend to my cousins, uncle. You had no choice in the matter," her eyes narrowing and her lips thinning. Baelon almost believed her. "It was the King's decision. Our forefathers chose men heirs over their daughters; if that were not the case, King Jaehaerys would have never been King, and it would be his elder sister and former wife to Prince Aegon the Uncrowned, princess Rhaena, who would have been made queen."

He met Rhaeyns's gaze, his eyes sincere. "But I am not my forefathers, and I am not my sons or my grandsires. I am Baelon, and I am here to bridge the gap that has divided our houses for too long. I wish for a future where our families can stand together, where the wounds of the past can heal, and where our children can grow up knowing the strength that comes from unity. Aegon the Conquerors themselves had a Velaryon mother and it was with both our houses that this empire was built." He paused, a deep sigh escaping his lips as he continued, "I made a promise to my late mother, a promise I intend to keep. House Velaryon and House Targaryen should not remain estranged. We are kin, bound by blood, and it is our duty to strengthen that bond, not weaken it."

Baelon's words hung heavy in the air, a challenge and a plea wrapped into one. He glanced at Princess Rhaeyns, his eyes softening with empathy, knowing the difficult position his words put her in. Rhaeyns, though she maintained her composure, couldn't hide the flicker of unease in her eyes.

Corlys, ever the astute diplomat, studied his wife for a moment before turning his attention back to Baelon. His expression was thoughtful, as if weighing the implications of the prince's words. And he knew what Baelon was suggesting without the words being said out right. "A betrothal," he mused, his voice low. "It is a significant proposition, Prince Baelon. Such a union would indeed bind our houses. But, forgive my bluntness, why should we agree to this? What assurance do we have that this union will not further deepen the rift between our families? After the las time the union was made it was not respected enough," he said accusingly.

"I recommend holding your tongue, Corlys," Baelon said with a glare. "You're wife may be my niece but that does not make you Targaryen. You will not speak to me as if you are my equal."

Corlys looked forward to the prince for some time before nodding his head. "My apologies, your grace. I forget myself."

Baelon met Corlys's gaze squarely, his resolve unwavering. "That being said, I understand your concerns, Lord Velaryon. I am willing to offer any assurances necessary to make this betrothal a reality. Our union would not only strengthen House Targaryen but also enrich House Velaryon. I am prepared to negotiate terms that would be beneficial for both our houses and the realm."

"And the union would be?" Lord Corlys asked.

Baelon took a deep breath, his eyes unwavering as he presented his proposal. "Lord Velaryon, to signify our commitment to bridging the gap between our houses, I propose a marriage between Laena Velaryon, your esteemed daughter, and my grandson, Aemon Targaryen." He spoke with conviction, outlining the qualities that made Aemon a worthy match. "Aemon is a prodigy, not only in the arts of the sword but also in the realm of knowledge. He is well-versed in both the book and the blade, showing exceptional prowess in his training. Just three weeks ago, he was honored with the position of squire to Ser Harrold Westerling, a renowned knight of the realm, a testament to his skill and potential." Baelon's eyes glinted with pride as he continued, "The maesters sing praises of his quick mind, and Aemon has already mastered High Valyrian and the common tongue. The Grand Maester himself has taken it upon him to teach Aemon the other dialects spoken in the Free Cities, further broadening his horizons."

"I highly doubt all that," Rhaenys countered. She looked at her husband. "He's three."

"I have heard otherwise for the last number of weeks," Lord Corlys offered.

He paused, letting the weight of his words settle in the room. "A union between Laena and Aemon would not only join our houses in marriage but also bring together two remarkable individuals, fostering understanding, collaboration, and harmony between our families. It would not only honor our ancestors but also pave the way for a future where the divisions of the past are nothing but distant memories."

"I appreciate the offer, and I understand the value of unity between our houses. However, I must ask, what would House Velaryon gain from this union? A marriage to a second son of House Targaryen, even a promising one, does not guarantee any significant inheritance, especially when it comes to the Iron Throne. The chances of Aemon ascending to such a position would be quite slim."

"Daemon Targaryen had been investing his efforts in building a castle in the Dornish marches. While the location might seem unconventional, it holds strategic significance. Dorne has often been a region of contention, and having a strong presence there, especially one with Targaryen blood, could prove invaluable in the future. And this position could prove valuable in a future Dornish war if it should come, a chance for Daemon's new house to gain far more wealth and honor. Daemon envisioned this castle as a bastion, a place where the influence of House Targaryen could thrive. A keep heavily fortified. He used Moat Callin, a fort in the North to defend against the South in the days before Aegon the Conquer, as a main component to build upon for the keep."

Corlys raised an eyebrow, clearly intrigued, a false act of ignorance of what was happening. Few were supposed to know of what Daemon was doing with Summerhall but every lord in the Seven Kingdoms knew, especially after Daemon cut the balls of the messenger and sent it back in the mouth of the messenger's severed head to Sunspear. "Dornish marches, you say? That's a bold move. But why there?"

Baelon's eyes gleamed with determination. "The Dornish marches, despite their challenges, provide a unique advantage. They are difficult to navigate and offer natural defenses against potential adversaries. Daemon's vision is to establish a stronghold that can withstand Dornish attacks, a bastion where the Targaryen legacy can thrive. Aemon is being groomed to not only inherit this keep but also to defend it, ensuring the safety of those within its walls, including your daughter, Laena."

Corlys's expression softened, his concerns momentarily alleviated, yet still present. "It's a dangerous endeavor, Prince Baelon. Dorne is not known for its passivity, and my daughter's safety is paramount to me. How can you guarantee her protection in such a precarious location?"

Baelon met Corlys's gaze with earnestness. "I assure you, Lord Velaryon, every precaution will be taken to fortify the keep and safeguard its inhabitants. Skilled builders and engineers are overseeing its construction, and trusted knights will be stationed there to ensure its defense. Additionally, Aemon will be trained not just in the ways of the sword, but also in strategic leadership, making him more than capable of protecting his home and those residing within it. Moreover, Laena will not be alone in this venture. She will have the support of House Targaryen and House Velaryon, ensuring that she is never left to face the challenges of the Dornish marches alone. We will stand united, facing whatever threats come our way, just as our ancestors did in days of old."

"I do not think my daughter would do well in a castle that has to be besieged and destroyed every third day, uncle," Rhaenys countered.

He continued, his voice filled with conviction, "This castle, conceived with ambition and vision, will be a testament to House Targaryen's endurance and strength. King Jaehaerys and I have committed a substantial sum of money to this endeavor. We aim to make this keep grander than Highgarden itself, a symbol of our house's lasting power and influence, even beyond the walls of the Red Keep." Baelon's eyes glimmered with determination. "Aemon, as the heir to this castle, will not only inherit titles and lands but a legacy of ambition and greatness. House Velaryon would be an integral part of this legacy, linked by blood and shared dreams of a future where our families thrive together. Not to mention you will be gaining an army."

"Excuse me, uncle?" Princess Rhaenys asked.

Prince Baelon looked to Corlys and asked him to explain since the pair both knew Corlys had been thinking about it since Baelon mentioned Aemon's name. "Prince Aemon's ties to the North give him any where between thirty thousand to fifty thousand men at his call if he so needs. Starks are nothing if not loyal and that will extend especially to those of their blood. If Aemon called the North would follow."

"And even your house is the wealthiest in the realm, you do not have the largest armies in it. You are no lord paramount to call forth you banners and raise ten thousand men, let alone four times that number. Having a Velaryon married to Aemon gives your house a chance to be connected to the North if you so need that army." Baelon continued. "The North also has it's own fleet, something that may add to your own."

"I would hardly call what the Manderlys have a fleet," Corlys scoffed.

"With your help, they could be. Two entire fleets and at least of thirty thousand men, on top of which, a prince as your daughters husband and a seat more beautiful than anything made since Valyria itself. This is what Aemon has to offer for House Velaryon."

"He is still less than likely to be a member of the main house of Targaryen. If Viserys has a son, then house Velaryon would not be tied to him, but rather Daemon," Rhaenys countered.

"And if Viserys does not have a son, then Daemon is his heir, and Aemon is his own. Either way, you have a husband for your wife who is either on the small council to help house Velaryon's interests or potentially a King of the Seven Kingdoms." He paused, allowing his words to sink in before adding, "Aemon is a boy of exceptional talents and potential. Even if he does not ascend to the Iron Throne, his skills in diplomacy, warfare, and governance will undoubtedly make him a prominent figure in the realm. There is little doubt in my mind even if the boy is young, he will have a seat on the small council. The alliances he forges, the wisdom he imparts, and the respect he earns will be invaluable assets to House Velaryon. A union with such a promising individual would bring honor, stability, and prosperity to your house."

Baelon observed the subtle exchange between Rhaenys and Corlys, detecting a flicker of apprehension in their eyes. Yet, he sensed a glimmer of hope, a willingness to bridge the gap and embrace the potential for unity.

When Corlys finally spoke, his words carried the weight of his decision. "Very well, Prince Baelon. I agree to the proposal of marriage between Laena Velaryon and your grandson, Aemon Targaryen. Let us formalize this arrangement on paper, signed and confirmed, to ensure the commitment between our houses is upheld."

A sense of relief washed over Baelon, and he nodded respectfully. "Thank you, Lord Velaryon. Your willingness to forge this alliance means a great deal to both our houses and the realm."

With a sense of purpose, they set forth to put their agreement in writing, the scratching of quills on parchment echoing through the chamber. The document was carefully drafted, outlining the terms and conditions of the betrothal between Laena Velaryon and Aemon Targaryen. Each word was chosen meticulously, sealing the fate of their houses and the promise of a united future.

Once the document was completed, Corlys extended his hand, a gesture of mutual respect and understanding. "May this union bring prosperity and harmony to our houses. Let our shared history be a guide, reminding us of the strength that comes from unity. "

Baelon clasped Corlys's hand firmly, a genuine smile gracing his lips. "Indeed, Lord Velaryon. May our alliance stand as a beacon of hope and cooperation, a testament to the enduring power of kinship."

"Aemon Targaryen and Laena Velaryon, a union just as the one that sired the conquerors themselves," Rhaenys smiled falsely.

Baelon did not care however, he had done what had promised his mother, and laid the foundation to bridge the house of the dragon for another generation. He ensured his grandson had the support of the most powerful man in the entire world after King Jaehaerys himself. He could already see Aemon riding Balerion heading the Velaryon fleet into battle, manned by forty thousand Northmen, that was a glorious sight indeed. A sight that made a grandfather proud.

Chapter 6: Grand Council

Summary:

After the death of the Crown Prince Baelon Targaryen, a Grand Council was called to name the next heir of the Iron Throne.

Notes:

Hey guys, I just wanted to say hi. I hope you like the fanfic so far; I'm a massive fan of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon and hope I'm doing it justice. I'm trying to avoid making Jon look perfect. He is morally good and honorable, but I will not make him a Mary Sue. He wants to be gifted in almost as much as he can to be what Rhaegar is supposed to be: someone for the others to rally behind. He will be a member of the Blacks, a no-brainer. I feel like the honorable Jon Snow would side with Rhaenyra even if he did think he was a bastard because honor dictates he needs to follow the words of his king, and Viserys wants Rhaenyra as queen. If you noticed, Aemon has two betrothals and knows nothing of either. Both the Velaryons and Targaryens would benefit from Aemon being on their side. What will happen when he finds out his father and grandfather made different decisions for his future? Which one would he be honored to listen to the most, or would he pull a Rob Stark and not follow the betrothals laid out for him? I will follow the more House of the Dragon centrist timeline for continued reference. While I love the books, I feel as though the dynamic between Rhaenyra and Alicent, being similar ages, brings a better and more personal resentment later on as you chances for either side to avoid the Dance of the Dragons, but outside forces don't allow them to escape the situation they were forced into. That said, there will be a sprinkle of book information and histories.

I almost forgot; I was literally about to post this right before I added this. All those with Valryian blood have silvery hair, purple eyes, and fair skin except Jon. Meaning the Velaryons are not black. I understand why they did it in the show; people may get confused physically by looking at over a dozen characters with similar hair, eyes, and skin colors, and they all ride dragons. Still, it also makes Rhaenyra look like an idiot trying to hide the fact her kids are bastards. The argument could have been made since Rhaenys is half Baratheon; in the books, she does have black hair, and her grandchildren, Laenor's supposed kids, merely gained that by skipping a generation or two. Since they also do not have any ounce of pigment, it makes Rhaenyra's fight the fact their bastards are completely stupid; it also would almost guarantee that more than half the kingdom would support the Greens since the Blacks are trying to eventually put bastards on the throne, and it is obvious rather than just a possible rumor, no lord in their right mind would support that. All in all, Aemon is the first Targaryen to not look the part, and the entire realm would mock, berate, undermine, and negatively view him, similar to Baelor Breakspear. Due to the lack of Targaryen look, the honorable nature, the good morals, and the fact I seriously doubt Aemon would ever start spending money like royalty often does, especially on his clothes, I am slightly aligning Aemon Targaryen/ Jon Snow to Baelon Breakspear either way, with a dash of Rhaegar Targaryen, especially since both were considered perfect princes of their respective times. Please pretend not to notice that both died before reaching the throne; you can draw your own conclusions on that part.

That being said, I hope you enjoy it. Please leave a comment and vote on the story. I would love some constructive criticism.

Chapter Text

Harrenhal 101 AC

Aemon Targaryen/ Jon Snow

As the first century of the Targaryen dynasty came to a close, the health of the Old King, Jaehaerys, was failing. Baelon Targaryen, the previous prince of Dragonstone, had passed on due to a burst belly earlier in the year, mere days after being named Hand of the King, replaced swiftly by the cunning Lord Otto Hightower, as Aemon knew would happen. And now they are to prepare for the Grand Council in the ruins of Harrenhal in an hour.

House Targaryen now sat at the height of its strength, according to Aemon's histories, but he would not allow it to stay the same for the future he set to create; he would not allow this moment to be the highest strength the house ever was, they would grow. With house Targaryen, there were eleven adult dragons under its yoke. No power in the world could stand against it.

King Jaehaerys reigned with nearly sixty years of peace and prosperity after the tyrannical reign of Maegor the Cruel. He had survived many trials and tribulations and sadly survived all but three of his thirteen children, two renouncing their father and leaving the Seven Kingdoms, one of which was even a whor* in Lys. The last was a son who became a maester and sworn off the crown. But with both his eldest son, Aemon, dead and his following heir, Baelon, died of a burst belly, leaving his succession in doubt.

As Aemon knew it would be, in the year 101 AC, Jaehaerys called forth a Grand Council to proclaim an heir. Aemon noticed that even before the council, the precedent was already set. Jaehaerys had a daughter before his eldest son, Aemon, and still, it was Aemon who was named prince of Dragonstone. Even before that, Jaehaerys had an elder sister, a living elder sister, before he claimed the Iron Throne, meaning that unofficially, a male would always inherit before a female of the royal family.

Approaching Harrenhal for the first time was a breathtaking experience that left Aemon in awe of its sheer splendor, under the mask of a terrifying black castle-fort. As Aemon drew nearer to the castle, the enormity of the structure became apparent, dominating the landscape with an imposing presence. The castle stood proudly on the north shore of the Gods Eye, a colossal fortress that is the epitome of both power and ambition. Better yet, the melted stone walls, like candle wax, were a testament to the one truth in the world Aegon the Dragon wished to teach the realm of man: do not anger the dragons of House Targaryen.

The first thing that captured Aemon's attention were the five towering spires that seemed to touch the sky, their tops disappearing into the clouds. These dizzying towers were surrounded by monstrous curtain walls, creating a sight that evoked both wonder and intimidation. The walls themselves were incredibly thick, hinting at the castle's formidable strength and the history it has witnessed. And yet it could not save the people inside from burning alive from Baelrion's flames. Now, as the walls were molten, rock ran down like wax from candles, andAemon only wondered how dangerous the Black Dread truly was.

As Aemon ventured inside, he found that Harrenhal's interior was equally awe-inspiring. The rooms, though built for humans, seem designed on a scale that is more suited for giants. The castle boasted the largest throne room in all of Westeros, a vast space that dwarfed even the renowned throne room of the Red Keep.

The sheer size of Harrenhal was difficult to comprehend; it covers three times the ground of Winterfell. Aemon thought that the building was so immense that comparisons hardly do justice. The stables alone can accommodate a staggering thousand horses. The godswood spanned twenty acres, providing a sanctuary of nature amidst the imposing stone walls.

Its kitchens rival the Great Hall of Winterfell itself. The mere thought of the bustling activity within these vast kitchens gave Aemon an idea of how much wealth went into financing a fraction of the keep alone. And why most Houses who claimed Harrenhal were doomed to poverty or death.

As the news of Baelon Targaryen's passing spread through the kingdoms, a heavy atmosphere settled over the Red Keep. Aemon Targaryen's memories of Jon Snow, felt a profound sense of loss for the only grandfather he knew in either lives. Baelon, his grandfather and the man he had known as a loving and indulgent figure, was gone. Baelon had been more than just a family member; he was a source of boundless affection. The loss of his grandfather triggered many dreams of those who had died in the life of Jon Snow.

Aemon allowed his mind to drift back to the days when Baelon the Brave was very much alive. Riding high upon the back of Vhagar, Aemon had felt the rush of wind and the exhilaration of flight as his grandfather allowed him to ride with him. Baelon had taken him on hunts, teaching him the ways of the wilderness, and together, they had tracked and captured Aemon's first stag.

Aemon recalled the sensation of sitting atop a horse, the very same mount as Baelon, as they thundered through the dense woods, hooves pounding against the earth, the wind whipping past them. It was in those moments that Aemon felt a deep connection to his grandfather, the only grandfather he knew in either life.

Baelon Targaryen, the doting grandfather, had showered Aemon with love and indulgence. As his only grandson, Aemon was the apple of Baelon's eye, and the old dragonrider spared no effort in spoiling the young prince. Sweets and treats were just the beginning; Baelon's affection knew no bounds, and he took immense pleasure in bringing joy to Aemon's life.

With the passing of Baelon Targaryen, the Red Keep, no, the entire realm was cast into a whirlwind of political upheaval and uncertainty. In the wake of his passing, two formidable figures emerged, each vying for the position of heir to the late dragon rider. Corlys Velaryon and Rhaenys Targaryen wasted no time seizing the opportunity to challenge the potential heirship of Jaehaerys Targaryen, mostly on behalf of Laenor Velaryon.

Viserys Targaryen, Aemon's uncle, was among the first to assert his claim to the Iron Throne. He argued that, as Baelon's heir, the late prince's position should now transfer to him. Viserys had his own vision for the future of the Seven Kingdoms and believed himself to be the rightful heir, given his close lineage to the recently deceased Baelon.

Rhaenys Targaryen, on the other hand, presented a different argument. She asserted that she was the heir of the late Aemon Targaryen, the eldest son of King Jaehaerys, and that her claim had been usurped when Jaehaerys bestowed the position upon Baelon, her uncle. Her case was built on the lineage of blood, her royal heritage tracing back to the direct line of succession from Aemon.

The dispute over the Targaryen and the matter of who would ascend to the Iron Throne became the topic of great importance. The realm watched with bated breath as the royal family grappled with the complexities of tradition, lineage, and ambition, and the eventual outcome of this power struggle would shape the future of Westeros in ways yet to be seen.

In the Seven Kingdoms, words echoed with over a dozen succession claims, but amidst the chaos, only two were seriously considered: Viserys Targaryen and Rhaenys Targaryen, or rather Rhaenys' son Laenor Vaelryon in her stead. Surprisingly, Daemon Targaryen, a renowned warrior and dragon rider, did not put forth his own claim, nor did Aemon. Instead, they supported Viserys, throwing their influence behind the candidacy of Daemon's brother.

Amidst the more recognized claims, there were other contenders who threw their hats into the ring. Laenor took precedence over either his mother or his sister, but Laena Velaryon, the child of Rhaenys Targaryen, was a potential heir whose claim followed her mother's in importance. Rhaenys and Laena's legitimacy for a claim was questioned and debated. Archmaester Vaegon, the last living son of Jaehaerys, was presented as a contender, some claiming his birthright based on his royal lineage, even if, as a maester, he swore it off.

Additionally, rumors came forth, with individuals from distant lands asserting their supposed connections to House Targaryen. Some claimed to be the offspring of Jaehaery's living daughters residing in Bravos and Lys, though these claims remained unverified. For some reason in particular when Volantis was mentioned Jaehaerys outright claimed it impossible saying the men were too old. Aemon was confused said nothing.

One contender even asserted himself as the bastard of Maegor the Cruel, a bold claim. The claimant brought his own mother, who claimed to be a servant of the Red Keep at the time and had been raped by Maegor. All lords believed that she was raped, but none believed she had gotten pregnant due to the fact that Maegor was known to have struggled with having children, even with six wives. Another individual, daring to make an even bolder assertion, claimed to be Jaehaerys's own illegitimate child.

Jaehaerys Targaryen, wise and foresighted, had anticipated the immense gathering and prepared accordingly. He knew that space was paramount, recognizing that accommodating the multitude of lords, knights, squires, grooms, cooks, and serving men that accompanied each lord would be a monumental task. The sheer scale of the assembly was staggering, with a need for space that could house at least a few hundred lords and their vast retinues.

Jaehaerys anticipated at least five hundred lords. One thousand came in attendance with their followers. The lord of Casterly Rock brought with him three hundred men. Not to be outdone, the Lord of Highgarden brought five hundred. While not yet in the part of the Seven Kingdoms, Aemon even noticed Dornish houses in attendance to observe proceedings, each one eyeing him and his father, Daemon, angrily.

It took half a year for the lords to assemble, each arrival adding to the growing number of people gathered within the crumbling walls of Harrenhal. Even the vast ruins strained to contain the sheer number of men in attendance. The air buzzed with anticipation and tension, the weight of the impending decisions bearing down on the shoulders of those present.

The lords, draped in their sigils and colors, arrived with their knights and warriors, their banners snapping in the wind as they claimed their positions within the assembly. The knights, in polished armor, stood tall and resolute, their squires attending to their every need. Grooms tended to the horses, ensuring their charges were well-cared for, while cooks and serving men prepared meals to sustain the multitude.

The High Septon came and brought a sense of solemnity to the gathering. Coming from the holy city of Oldtown, he was there to bless the assembly, invoking the gods' favor for the decisions that were to be made within the council chambers.

Merchants, recognizing the economic opportunities that the gathering presented, flocked to Harrenhal by the hundreds. Their stalls and carts filled with exotic goods and essential supplies lined the outskirts of the castle, creating a makeshift market where lords and attendees could barter and trade. The air was rich with the scents of spices, leather, and freshly baked bread, enticing both nobles and commoners alike.

Hedge knights and free riders, armed and eager for employment, gathered in hopes of finding lords willing to pay for their swords. With the promise of gold and glory, they mingled with the powerful lords, hoping to be chosen to serve in the conflicts that often arose from such monumental gatherings.

Amidst the sea of people, women and young girls arrived with the hope of securing powerful and advantageous marriages. They presented themselves in their finest garments, seeking to catch the eye of lords and heirs in search of suitable partners. The air was filled with the sound of laughter and flirtation as romantic alliances were forged amid the political maneuvering.

Bards and actors, recognizing the grandeur of the occasion, came to entertain the assembled masses. Their performances, ranging from epic ballads to humorous plays, provided moments of respite from the weighty discussions within Harrenhal's halls. The notes of harps and the echoes of laughter filled the air, offering brief respites from the gravity of the council sessions.

Outside the ancient castle, an entire city of tents sprang up, creating a vibrant and colorful settlement that extended far beyond the castle walls. The tent city buzzed with activity, serving as a microcosm of the realm itself, representing the diverse tapestry of Westerosi society that had gathered for the historic event.

After considering all contenders, it was brought down to merely Viserys and Laenor; each had one argument in their favor. The principle of primogeniture favored Rhaenys and her son Laenor, while the principles of proximity and gender favored Viserys.

Aemon recalled his father, Daemon, flying from castle to castle in the name of Viserys to gain support and help gain more votes for his brother's accession. One thing that happened that changed drastically, even before the vote was cast, was that House Stark supported Viserys. In the previous histories, from what he could recall, House Stark and, in turn, the majority of the North favored Laenor due to primogeniture and the fact that women were seen more as equals in the North and more liberated in restrictions. But this time, their support to Viserys was due to Daemon flying to the North himself and explaining something that even Aemon did not know about. He could not recall every detail; his memories of his past life and the Dance of Dragons had been failing him as of late, and every time he tried to write down what he did recall, he would forget everything until he gave up and recalled bits and pieces once more.

House Baratheon and most of the Stormlands were clearly in favor of Rhaenys and her son. House Arryn and most of the Vale on the side of Viserys. The River lords were divided but mostly on the side of Rhaenys merely due to Daemon's support of his brother and due to the Riverlands thinking Daemon stole his mother, Lyanna Stark, from Elmo Tully. The rest of the lords Aemon did not know which side they would take, but he knew the end result, even if his memories were falling him in larger portions of his previous life.

But here he was, standing by his father, Daemon, on the side of his uncle Viserys, a man not yet five and twenty years of age, waiting for the verdict that all in the Seven Kingdoms secretly knew would be. Aemon did not move, he did not blink. To many, it looked like he did not even breathe; he stood like the Winter Kings of old, unfeeling, stoic, and strong. The Northern Lords liked that very much, especially since Aemon looked all Stark, save for his indigo eyes almost as black as night. While looking like a Stark in front of the masses, it was clear that he was the only member of House Targaryen lacking the Valyrian coloring.

Rhaenyra was playing around with her hands, not able to stand still, standing to the side of her mother, Aemma, and father, Viserys. Rhaenrya had tried to get Aemon to play with her, but Aemma told her daughter if she did not behave, she would be grounded until they returned home to the Red Keep.

Rhaenys and Corlys stood on the opposing side as Laenor, far shorter in stature due to being four, just like Aemon and Rhaenyra, stood before his parents. Laena, of the same age as the three, stood closer to her father due to Laena not being the main candidate being brought forward as heir.

Aemon stood as a silent observer, his eyes fixed upon Jaehaerys Targaryen, the Old King, who sat upon his golden throne. The room was filled with thousands of lords, and their attendants multiplied that number. To Aemon, it looked like a sea of people, an overwhelming tide of humanity, all gazing intently at the figure of the Old King.

Jaehaerys' face, weathered by years and experience, held an expression of solemnity. As the votes were counted and the anticipation reached its peak, Aemon could feel the collective gaze of the assembly upon the Old King. Every eye was trained on him, every voice hushed in anticipation of the decision that would shape the course of history.

The hushed murmurs of the assembly fell silent as the maesters carried a large golden chest to the front of the room. Each footfall resonated in the vast hall, the sound reverberating through the grandeur of Harrenhal. The lords and ladies turned their attention to the unfolding scene, their eyes fixed upon the approaching maesters.

The maesters stopped before the Old King, Jaehaerys. They waited with patient deference as the elderly king lowered himself closer to the golden chest, his movements deliberate and steady despite the weight of his years. With a practiced hand, Jaehaerys opened the crate, revealing the precious contents within.

From his side, the king extracted a scroll, its parchment aged and weathered by time, even if it was supposed to be fresh and new. The room seemed to hold its breath as Jaehaerys slowly unfurled the scroll, his eyes scanning the words with practiced ease. His voice, though frail, carried a resonance that defied his old age. In a tone that echoed with authority, he declared the fate of the realm.

"In the name of the gods and by the authority vested in me as king of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, and protector of the realm," Jaehaerys began, his voice firm, "I declare before the lords paramount and lords vassal of the Seven Kingdoms that Prince Viserys Targaryen be made Prince of Dragonstone and heir of the Iron Throne!"

The proclamation echoed through the vast hall of Harrenhal, and as the words settled, a thunderous round of applause and cheers erupted from the assembled lords of the Seven Kingdoms. The hall was filled with the sound of celebration, the air charged with the energy of excitement and approval.

Viserys Targaryen, the newly declared Prince of Dragonstone and heir of the Iron Throne stood tall amidst the acclaim of the realm. His eyes met those of his wife, Aemma, a woman of grace and strength, and their daughter, Rhaenyra, a glimpse of the future of House Targaryen. Viserys's smile was both proud and tender as he gazed at his family, his heart swelling with a mixture of joy and gratitude.

Aemma tightened her grip on her husband's hand, her fingers entwining with his. Viserys brought her hand up to his lips, pressing a gentle kiss upon her skin, a gesture of love and devotion that spoke volumes.

Viserys turned to his brother and nodded, thankful, knowing fully well that his brother rode Caraxes from dusk to dawn, from kingdom to kingdom, to gain him crucial votes. Aemon turned back to the Old King; he looked old, tired, and weak. Aemon noticed that while the lords roared in glee for Viserys, Jaehaerys sighed in satisfaction as if he knew he would die tomorrow and welcome death. Aemon did not think the man would survive another day, let alone another two years, as he believed was the case in his last life.

Aemon did not wish to attend the feasts or any of the celebrations. He merely went on, with Ser Harrold following, to the training yard. The two spared for hours. The knight asked if he wished to join his family, but his squire said that it was not his own celebration to have. Ser Harrold said that being Daemon's heir and son, it would make Aemon third in line for the throne, after his father, and Daemon after Viserys. Aemon replied that if that is true, then wasting time celebrating would not be wise when he could spend time training to be worth the position. It was hours later, when the boy nearly fell from exhaustion, that he went off to bed. But his night would be just as chaotic as his day.

It was that night when Aemon slept that he found himself ensnared in the clutches of a restless night. In the darkness, his slumber was plagued by disquiet, and his once peaceful repose transformed into a tumultuous ordeal.

Tossing and turning in the expansive chambers that felt far too large for him, Aemon's brow furrowed with distress. His sleep had become a battlefield of the mind. Beads of sweat glistened upon his skin, his breathing heavy and labored as he grappled with unseen demons that haunted his subconscious.

Laying upon the edge of his bed, Aemon groaned, his dreams pressing upon him like a leaden shroud. In the quiet of the night, he was ensnared in a struggle, caught between the waking world and the realm of his nightmares. Tears, unbidden, traced a path down his cheeks.

In the depths of the night, he found himself haunted by visions of his wives, Margaery Tyrell and Arianne Martell, their once warm and loving gazes replaced by eyes as cold and blue as ice. Their skin, once smooth and vibrant, was now torn and mangled, a gruesome distortion that sent shivers down his spine.

He held his children close, their innocent laughter echoing in the darkness. But as he looked upon their faces, their features contorted into grotesque masks of horror. Their eyes glowed with an otherworldly hue, a chilling shade of blue that pierced through the depths of his soul. They let out a deathly screech, a sound that echoed with despair, a lamentation of a world ravaged by the unforgiving wrath of winter.

The dreamscape twisted further, plunging him into a realm of eternal winter storms. The howling winds and relentless snowfall blotted out the sun, casting the world into an endless night. In this desolate landscape, he encountered the walking dead, their eyes ablaze with the same icy hue that had haunted his family. Others marched in relentless pursuit, their presence casting a shadow of dread across the barren lands.

Blue eyes, as cold and lifeless as the heart of winter, surrounded him, their gaze devoid of warmth or humanity. Aemon stood alone amidst the frozen wasteland, a solitary figure facing the onslaught of the relentless army of the dead. The dreamscape seemed to stretch on into infinity, an endless nightmare from which there was no escape.

Aemon woke abruptly, his body jolting upright with a loud gasp that shattered the silence of the night. Beads of sweat dripped down his face, his skin clammy and pale from the intensity of his dreams. He staggered off the bed, his legs weak and unsteady, collapsing onto the cold stone floor of his chamber. With trembling hands, he reached under the bed, pulling out the chamber pot just in time to vomit into it, his body convulsing with each retch.

Gasping for air, he clutched his chest, the pain searing through him like a dagger. His heart pounded in his ears, a relentless drumbeat that seemed to echo the terror of his nightmares. Tears welled in his eyes as he struggled to catch his breath, his body wracked with a combination of fear and physical anguish.

Through blurry eyes, he glanced out of the window, finding solace in the sight of the moonlit night. The world outside was still and serene, untouched by the torment that gripped his soul. Yet, despite the tranquility of the night, Aemon knew sleep would elude him. The horrors of his dreams clung to his consciousness, refusing to release their hold.

As the first hints of dawn painted the sky, he made a silent decision to seek solace in the familiar routine of training. The castle slumbering, and the training yard would be empty, a sanctuary where he could confront the turmoil that had seized his thoughts.

Dressing himself, Aemon made his way through the dimly lit corridors. The knowledge of a secret passage passed down to him through the stories of his past life by Arya, served as his guide, and he snuck around the kingsguard stationed at his door. It was a route that Arya had observed during her own time in the castle with Tywin Lannister during the War of the Five Kings.

As he emerged into the training yard, the first rays of the rising sun had yet to bathed the area in a soft, golden light. The crisp morning air greeted him, and the familiar scent of earth and steel was a balm to his troubled spirit. Here, in the empty yard, he could channel the restlessness and disquiet that had been stirred within him.

Aemon drew his training sword, the familiar weight in his hand grounding him in the present. The early hours of the day were his alone, a time when the world was still and undisturbed. With each practiced movement and each clash of blades, he allowed the rhythm of training to soothe the turbulence within his soul.

The training yard became a sanctuary, a place where he could confront the demons of the night and find respite in the focused discipline of combat. The training dummies and sparring partners, silent witnesses to his determination, stood as a testament to the strength that resided within him.

Aemon Targaryen unleashed his fury upon the wooden practice dummy. Each strike was fueled by the tumultuous emotions that raged within him – grief, fear, anger, and despair. The faces of his wives, his children, and all those he had lost haunted his thoughts, driving him to strike harder and harder, seeking an outlet for the overwhelming pain that gripped his soul.

The rhythmic thud of wood against wood echoed through the training yard, each blow a release of the pent-up anguish that tormented him. Skill and finesse were abandoned in favor of raw, unbridled aggression. With every strike, he sought to drown out the voices in his mind, the memories that clawed at his sanity, threatening to consume him whole.

His movements became chaotic, the controlled discipline of his training devolving into a frenzied assault. The once-sturdy dummy groaned under the relentless onslaught, its wooden frame bearing the brunt of Aemon's inner turmoil. Sweat soaked his brow, and his breaths came in ragged gasps as he continued his assault, lost in a maelstrom of emotions.

Time seemed to blur as he beat upon the dummy, unaware of the hours slipping away. The training yard became a battleground, a sanctuary where he could unleash the storm within him. Each strike was a scream into the void, a desperate attempt to exorcise the demons that haunted his mind.

Eventually, exhaustion caught up with him, and he stumbled back, his chest heaving, his muscles aching from the exertion. The dummy stood battered and broken, a testament to the intensity of his emotions. Aemon's hands trembled as he lowered his training sword, his knuckles raw and bloodied from the onslaught.

"If you are training, you are doing a piss poor job of it," Aemon heard, knowing the voice. Aemon caught his breath before turning to his father, Daemon. "Is this the famous Targaryen prodigy I've heard tales of? Doesn't seem like the stuff of legends, Tresy"

Aemon met his father's gaze, a mix of frustration and determination in his eyes. "I couldn't sleep, Kepa," he confessed, his voice carrying the weight of his restless night.

Daemon's chuckle softened into a sympathetic smile as he approached the training swords, selecting one with a practiced hand. "Ah, the old enemy, sleepless nights," he said, his tone understanding. "When I found my mind too cluttered with thoughts, I would come here," he gestured to the training yard, "and spar. There's a clarity in the clash of blades, a focus that drowns out all other noise. It may help clear your thoughts, too.

Aemon regarded his father, a flicker of interest in his eyes. He took a moment to absorb Daemon's words. With a nod, Daemon and Aemon assumed a ready stance. The tension that had gripped him seemed to ease slightly as he prepared for the spar, his mind momentarily diverted from the haunting memories that had plagued his dreams.

As the clash of swords resonated through the training yard, Aemon felt a mixture of exhilaration and contentment. His father, Daemon Targaryen, fought with a seasoned grace. Aemon, despite his youth and physical limitations, moved with a speed and agility that surprised Daemon; the boy fought better than most squires. He anticipated his father's strikes, countering with swift and well-timed moves that showcased his growing skill.

Daemon's eyes gleamed with pride as he watched his son hold his ground. Despite Aemon's smaller stature and youthful exuberance, there was a determination in his eyes that spoke of a warrior's spirit. The boy was smaller, weaker, slower, but in a decade, he could see his son being something worth fighting in tourneys. The spar became a dance, a silent conversation between father and son, spoken through the language of swords.

For Aemon, training with his father was a privilege he had never imagined. In his previous life as Jon Snow, he had yearned for a connection like this, the opportunity to learn from his father figure. Now, in this new existence as Aemon Targaryen, he relished the chance to spar with his own father. The image of Ned Stark training Robb Stark lingered in his mind, a bittersweet reminder of the fatherly guidance he had missed. Ned Stark never did the same for him, and the few times he was going to, Lady Stark came up with an excuse to take her husband away, to deny Jon Snow in spite.

Yet, in the present, Aemon found solace and joy in the shared moments with Daemon. He imagined the future, a time when he would grow stronger, his skills honed through these spars, and he could face his father on equal footing. The anticipation of that day fueled his determination, propelling him forward in the spar.

Daemon's smile was one of genuine pride, seeing his son's natural ability with the sword. The way Aemon moved, the precision in his strikes, and the grace in his footwork were nothing short of spectacular for a child. Despite Aemon's youth, he held his own, meeting every strike with determination and resolve.

Jon Snow, revered as the best swordsman in the North during his time, was undoubtedly skilled, but he acknowledged that there were others who had surpassed him due to Jon Snow spending time in the North where he stayed the best and did not face men of his equal or better. Names like Jaime Lannister, Arthur Dayne, Aemon the Dragon Knight, Daemon the Rogue Prince, Rhaegar the Last Dragon, and Duncan the Tall echoed through history as legendary swordsmen, each possessing unique skills that set them apart.

Neither of them paid heed to the growing crowd in the training yard. The spectators, drawn in by the spectacle of a father and son sparring, watched in awe as Aemon held his own against his father, delivering a few well-placed strikes that showcased his emerging skill.

Aemon, despite the fact that he had not yet bested his father, found satisfaction in the few strikes he managed to land. He knew that his father, unlike Ser Harrold, was not surprised by his skill; he may not have been in the Red Keep, but he kept many tabs on his son, especially when they failed to tell him his son almost died due to the pox.

Daemon's eyes, sharp and perceptive, caught the momentary lapse in his son's defense. With lightning speed, he capitalized on the opening, smacking the flat of his training sword against Aemon's shoulder. The impact resonated through the young prince's body, a stark reminder of the vulnerability that even the most skilled fighters occasionally faced. Then quickly fainted for a strike on the left before disarming Aemon, who wished to block the attack.

Daemon's smile, wide and unrestrained, revealed a sense of pride and amusem*nt. He playfully teased his son, recognizing the distinct style that Aemon had adopted in his combat techniques. "You fight like a northerner, Aemon," Daemon remarked his tone light but discerning.

"Well, I must thank my northern blood for that, then," he responded with a roll of his eyes. Daemon chuckled slightly.

"The blood of the dragon runs thick, boy. While you might look more northern, it would not do well for you to make the same mistakes as them. I beat nearly a hundred of them to ensure my marriage to your mother was uncontested; I know how to beat them, and so do many others," Daemon advised as he got closer to his son, the boy barely reaching Daemon's waste.

"I don't know if you noticed, but the blood of the dragon runs thin enough in me for me to not even look like you," Aemon said.

"No, you do not," Daemon said, smiling. "You might not have my hair, but you have my face, and I think I look rather handsome." Daemon then asked Aemon to show him his arm and check if his shoulder was fine from the strike with the flat of the blade.

"I could have beaten you," Aemon said with a smile, both of them knowing that was not the case. Daemon smiled even further as he began moving his hand through Aemon's black locks to mess up their hair.

"Not any time soon," Daemon continued. "All punches, kicks, and brawls—brutal and direct. It's a style that catches many off guard, especially if you are older. But be careful. The best fighters would exploit those tendencies and leave you bloody." Daemon's eyes softened with a mixture of pride and affection as he watched his son's skillful maneuvers. A small smile played on his lips, and then, with a glint of reminiscence in his eyes, he spoke, "You fight like your mother, Aemon."

Aemon, his young features etched with surprise, looked up at his father. People rarely spoke good things about Lyanna Stark in court. And most of the time Lyanna was pregnant, she had stayed on Dragonstone with Daemon, from what Viserys explained to Aemon. No one in the Targaryen family knew Lyanna Stark well enough to tell Aemon any stories of her, and in the life of Jon Snow, Ned Stark died before telling Jon that Lyanna was his mother to even begin with.

"Mother knew how to use a sword?" he asked, his voice tinged with disbelief.

Daemon chuckled, a fond and proud glimmer in his eyes. "Of course she did," he replied, his voice carrying a note of admiration. "In fact, right after your mother and I got married, she fought my father when he came to look for the pair of us after the tourney we had met at. And do you know what happened?" he asked, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Aemon's curiosity piqued, and he leaned in closer, waiting for his father to continue. "She beat him. Disarmed him faster than a heartbeat," Daemon said with a grin, his tone carrying a mix of amusem*nt and respect.

"That's incredible," he said, his voice filled with admiration.

Daemon nodded, his smile widening at his son's reaction. "Your mother was remarkable, Aemon," he said, his voice filled with warmth. "Just like you."

Aemon, intrigued by the mention of his mother, hesitated for a moment before mustering the courage to ask, "Kepa, can you tell me more about Mother? I want to know about her."

Daemon's expression softened, and he met his son's gaze with a mixture of fondness and sadness. "Your mother, Lyanna, was a force of nature," he began, a wistful smile playing on his lips. "She had a spirit that was as wild and untamed as the wind." Aemon listened intently, captivated by his father's words. Daemon's smile widened, and he said, "They used to say she was half horse. No man or woman could ride as fast as her, and when she was on a horse, it was like she became one with the animal. She rode with a grace and fearlessness that left everyone in awe."

Aemon's confusion from earlier dissipated, replaced by a sense of awe and reverence for the mother he had never truly known. He pictured her in his mind, a vision of a woman with windswept hair, riding freely on the back of a galloping horse, and he couldn't help but smile at the thought.

"She sounds incredible," Aemon said, his voice filled with genuine admiration.

Daemon nodded, his eyes distant as he reminisced about the woman he had loved. "She was, Aemon," he replied, his voice tinged with both pride and longing. "She was incredible in every way. And you have her spirit within you."

The pair looked at one another; Daemon brought his son into an embrace as he affectionately ruffled the boy's hair, the same way he used to do with Lyanna. For the rest of the day, the pair spared, doing nothing but spending time with one another, something rare once Daemon left for Summerhall once more.

Aemon had wished to be better than he was in his life time to not make the mistakes once more. He needed to be perfect. The perfect man of honor like his father Eddard Stark. The perfect fighter, like Ser Arthur Dayne. The perfect dragon rider, like his father, Daemon Targaryen. The perfect Targaryen, like Aegon the Conqueror. The perfect prince, like his father, Rhaegar Targaryen. He had to make no mistakes when fighting the Night King; his last mistake cost the world, killing the Night King before. He would ensure House Targaryen fights off against the Long Night and achieves a perfect victory against it, for if they don't, Aemon himself was not sure there would be a third time. But for now, he would just be Aemon, son of Daemon. And for the first time in this lifetime, he didn't see Eddard Stark's face when the word father came to his mind.

Jaehaerys Targaryen

In his private chamber within the ancient walls of Harrenhal, Jaehaerys Targaryen, the Old King, sat in a moment of quiet solitude. The grand celebrations for the newly declared heir, Viserys, echoed outside, but within the confines of his chamber, the old monarch was removed from the jubilation that filled the air. The Grand Council, had concluded three days prior, and the weight of the decisions made still hung heavily upon his shoulders.

Jaehaerys had made his mark on history, his wisdom and leadership guiding the realm through a pivotal moment. But now, he found himself alone, the once vibrant energy that had fueled his reign slowly waning. The celebrations, filled with revelry and cheer, were a stark contrast to the quietude of the room.

Age had taken its toll on the Old King. The exertion of the council and the subsequent festivities had drained him, leaving him weary and weakened. His once-strong frame now seemed fragile, the passage of time etched upon his face. The absence of his sister-wife Alysanne, who had passed away a year ago, weighed heavily on his heart, casting a shadow over his solitude. With her gone, he lacked the familiar presence that had once provided him comfort and solace.

As the sounds of revelry drifted in from outside, Jaehaerys reflected on the legacy he had crafted, the decisions he had made, and the sacrifices he had endured. The burden of leadership, the responsibilities of ruling a realm, had demanded much from him, and he had given his all in service to his people.

In the stillness of his chamber, Jaehaerys Targaryen, the Old King, found himself consumed by thoughts of the Grand Council. The events that had transpired, the claims and ambitions that had surfaced, weighed heavily on his mind. His gaze turned inward, contemplating the complexities of the realm he had ruled for decades.

Viserys Targaryen and Laenor Velaryon had been expected claimants. Their claims were rooted in lineage and history, the familiar struggle for power within the noble houses of Westeros. However, the unexpected surge of contenders, particularly those claiming to be his daughter's bastards, had stirred a deep anger within Jaehaerys.

One claim, in particular, had cut him to the core — the audacious assertion of being Jaehaerys' own bastard. The very idea of betraying his beloved late wife, Alysanne, struck a chord of fury within the Old King. His love for her had been unwavering, and the thought of impregnating another woman while she was alive was beyond the realm of possibility.

The anger simmered within Jaehaerys, a burning ember of indignation at the audacity of the claimant. The very notion of such a betrayal to Alysanne's memory gnawed at his heart. The temptation to punish the liar, to have him captured and thrown into a cell for his deceit, clawed at the edges of Jaehaerys' thoughts.

In that moment of contemplation, a mix of emotions warred within the Old King — a potent blend of anger, grief, and protective devotion to the legacy he had shared with Alysanne. The decisions made during the Grand Council had far-reaching consequences, and Jaehaerys, in his solitude, grappled with the burden of leadership and the challenges that lay ahead.

In the wake of the Grand Council's decisions, a new law had been established, a decree that would shape the future of House Targaryen and the governance of the Seven Kingdoms. The edict stood firm: a male heir would always take precedence before any females within the family. A law that dictated the line of succession, ensuring that the leadership of the realm would forever be in the hands of a man of House Targaryen. The male line was now designated as the primary channel through which power would pass.

For House Targaryen, it meant that the leadership of the Seven Kingdoms would always be vested in a male member of the family, ensuring the continuation of the dynasty through the male line. The law served as a safeguard, a measure to prevent disputes and uncertainties surrounding succession, providing clarity and stability to the realm's governance.

The weight of the crown, the burden of leadership, and the toll of decades of politics, debates, and lawmaking had worn him down. It had been nearly sixty years since he ascended the throne, and in that time, he had witnessed the realm change, seen alliances forged and broken, and weathered the storms of governance.

His journey had not been without its sorrows. The losses he had endured were etched into the lines on his face and the depths of his weary eyes. His brothers, once his companions and confidants, had been cruelly taken from him by his own uncle's treachery. His daughters, the flesh of his flesh, had grown distant, their hearts hardened by the intrigues of court and the demands of royal duty. Even his beloved wife, Alysanne, had departed from this world, leaving him in a solitude that weighed heavily upon his aging shoulders.

The passing of his youngest daughter had been a bitter blow. Each loss had taken a piece of his heart, leaving him feeling increasingly isolated and alone. The court, once vibrant with life and laughter, now felt empty, the echoes of past joys fading into the recesses of memory. He yearned for freedom. He wished for release. He yearned for the Stranger to take him away.

As he sat in his chamber, thoughts of his family, both the living and the departed, filled his mind. The ache of loneliness gnawed at him, reminding him of the sacrifices he had made in service to the realm. His legacy was secure, but the cost had been immeasurable. They claim him the best king in history, and yet he was a terrible father. Especially to his living daughters in Volantis, they were too young to be alone in a city.

The weight of Jaehaerys Targaryen's kingship had exacted a heavy toll on his personal life, fracturing the bonds with his family in the process. As a father, he had been absent, preoccupied by the demands of his reign. His grandson Daemon had grown fiercely independent, a rogue whose spirit refused to be tamed by the constraints of royalty. The distance between them had grown, and the chasm seemed insurmountable.

His granddaughter Rhaenys, a woman of fire and determination, harbored a deep-seated resentment. She had been passed over as heir not once but twice, a bitter pill to swallow. The sting of being overlooked by her younger cousin, Viserys, weighed heavily on her heart, breeding a sense of betrayal that would fester over the years. The fractures in their relationship ran deep, the wounds of perceived injustice leaving scars that marred the fabric of their familial ties.

Jaehaerys found himself faced with the daunting task of training Viserys. The prospect of rebuilding the family bonds he had neglected for decades now seemed an elusive dream. Instead of fostering connections with his grandson, he was burdened by the responsibility of molding Viserys into a future king. The time he longed to spend building bridges and nurturing relationships was overshadowed by the weighty obligation to prepare the young prince for the throne.

Jaehaerys Targaryen found himself surrounded by a new generation, his great-grandchildren, who represented the future of House Targaryen. Yet, the gulf between the elderly king and these young souls seemed insurmountable. They were spirited, headstrong, and full of life, qualities that clashed with the weariness and wisdom of the aging monarch.

Laena, the headstrong granddaughter, mirrored the resentful spirit of her mother, Rhaenys. The deep-rooted animosity between mother and daughter seemed to have passed down, making it difficult for Jaehaerys to connect with the fiery young girl. Laenor, her brother, was more approachable, yet his eagerness was driven by the ambition of his parents to secure his position as Prince of Dragonstone, a responsibility that weighed heavily upon the young boy's shoulders. His fear of disappointing Jaehaerys and the weight of living up to the legendary figure made their interactions strained.

Rhaenyra, with her devious and mischievous nature, was a handful, a cute but challenging little girl who kept the atmosphere around her charged with energy. Her antics and boundless curiosity added a touch of chaos to the royal court, a stark contrast to the measured composure of the aging king.

As for Aemon, Jaehaerys knew little of the young boy. His presence in the family seemed almost like a mystery, a figure hovering at the periphery of the royal circle. The king found himself yearning for a connection with his great-grandchildren, hoping to impart the wisdom of his years to the future leaders of House Targaryen.

He had heard whispers and murmurs about Aemon, the son of his distant grandson, Daemon Targaryen. The young boy seemed to embody the very essence of a perfect prince, a paragon of virtue and talent that had captured the admiration of those who spoke of him. Despite the whispers that reached Jaehaerys' ears, he had never spoken to the boy before, their paths seldom crossing due to Aemon's busy schedule and the demands of his duties.

Aemon was a dedicated scholar, spending countless hours within the hallowed halls of the libraries, his thirst for knowledge insatiable. His intellect was matched only by his linguistic prowess, effortlessly conversing in the common tongue, High Valyrian, and several other languages that graced the pages of ancient tomes. The young prince's dedication to learning mirrored the Old King's own passion for knowledge, creating a subtle connection between them, even in their silence.

Aemon had become a squire to a member of the kingsguard, honing his skills in the arts of combat and chivalry. The boy's melodious voice could make songs that enchanted those who heard him. Aemon's multifaceted abilities made him a beloved figure among the court.

The echoes of Aemon's accomplishments stirred a sense of pride within Jaehaerys. The boy's remarkable talents and noble demeanor painted a portrait of the perfect prince. Just as many had claimed Jaehaerys to be the ideal king, Aemon embodied the virtues and abilities that were often attributed to the Old King himself. How Daemon could be, Aemon's father was a miracle of the gods.

As the echoes of his wife's voice resonated in his mind, chiding him for his neglect, Jaehaerys felt a renewed sense of purpose. The whispers of his conscience compelled him to bridge the gap that had existed between him and Daemon's son, Aemon. Determination filled his heart as he resolved to rectify the distance that had grown between them.

Summoning his resolve, Jaehaerys sought out Lord Commander Ryam Redwyne, the stalwart leader of the Kingsguard, and conveyed his intentions. His voice carried the weight of his decision as he instructed the Lord Commander, "Ser Ryam, I wish to see my grandson, Aemon. Bring him to my chambers. It is high time we had a conversation."

The Lord Commander, respectful of the king's wishes, nodded solemnly, recognizing the significance of the moment. "As you command, Your Grace. I will bring Prince Aemon to you immediately."

The knock on the door, heralding Ser Ryam Redwyne's arrival, was a welcome interruption. The Lord Commander's report that Prince Aemon had been brought to the king's chambers prompted Jaehaerys to invite his grandson inside.

Aemon entered with a stoic demeanor, his countenance seemingly emotionless, a mask that hid the complexities of the young prince's thoughts and feelings. Jaehaerys couldn't help but recall the whispers he had heard about the boy's solitary existence at the courts of King's Landing. Aemon's preference for solitude, the hours spent engrossed in reading, drawing, and honing his musical talents, had painted a picture of a young soul lost in introspection.

The shadows that clung to Aemon's features, the unspoken sadness etched upon his face, had not gone unnoticed by the king. Rumors had suggested that the death of Aemon's mother, being linked to his birth, cast a long shadow of sorrow over the boy's life. Jaehaerys couldn't help but agree with the sentiment.

Aemon bowed with impeccable grace and respect, acknowledging his great-grandfather, the king. Jaehaerys observed the young prince's flawless poise and inwardly noted the confidence that seemed to radiate from him. The king mused that most others of Aemon's age often stumbled and stuttered in the presence of the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.

"Aemon," Jaehaerys began, his voice steady yet gentle, "there's no need for such formality, my boy. You need not bow before me. I am your great-grandfather, first and foremost. We are family." Aemon straightened, his face showing the faintest hint of surprise at the king's words. His rigid posture softened slightly as he looked at Jaehaerys, a flicker of curiosity in his eyes. "I did summon you here," Jaehaerys continued, his smile warm and reassuring. "But you need not be so formal. I wanted to speak to you, not as a king to his subject, but as a family member. Please, have a seat." With a subtle nod of understanding, Aemon lowered himself into a nearby chair, his gaze never leaving the king. Jaehaerys took a moment to study the young prince before him. "I've heard great things about you, Aemon," Jaehaerys said, breaking the silence that hung between them. Aemon inclined his head slightly, acknowledging the king's words with a hint of gratitude in his eyes. Jaehaerys continued, his tone soft and understanding. Jaehaerys' eyes fell upon the heavy tome cradled in Aemon's arms, noticing the strain on the young prince's face as he struggled to carry it. Curiosity piqued, the king gestured towards the book. "That seems like quite the weight you're carrying there, Aemon. What have you got in your hands?" Jaehaerys inquired, his tone laced with genuine interest.

Aemon carefully placed the book on a nearby table before responding, his eyes alight with a spark of enthusiasm. "It's a rare manuscript, Your Grace," he explained, his voice tinged with excitement. "A tome in ancient Valyrian lore, filled with knowledge about dragon-riding techniques and lost magical arts. Harrenhal's library is as big as the Citadel's, and many lords come and go through it. I was fortunate enough to find this particular book before another lord could claim it. It's one of a kind."

Jaehaerys couldn't help but smile at the young prince's passion for learning, recognizing a kindred spirit in his great-grandson. "A valuable find indeed," the king remarked, his eyes glinting with appreciation. "Continue your pursuit of knowledge, Aemon. The thirst for learning is a noble endeavor, one that I wholeheartedly encourage. If there are any books or topics you seek, do not hesitate to ask. Harrenhal's library is at your disposal."

Jaehaerys' eyes scanned the title of the ancient tome,The Great Empire of the Dawn: Dragonlords of Ancient Asshai, his fingers gently tracing the letters on the cover. The book, with its weathered black leather and pages that seemed to shimmer like gold, held the weight of centuries within its confines. He marveled at the knowledge contained within, recognizing the depth of its contents.

"That sounds like a rather difficult read, Aemon," Jaehaerys remarked, his tone laced with admiration. "I can imagine it must be a challenging text even for seasoned scholars. Do you understand it?"

Aemon met the king's gaze, his eyes reflecting a depth of understanding that surpassed his years. "Yes, Your Grace," he replied, his voice unwavering. "The book is from an ancient man who had learned many legends and truths and compiled it into one work. The book delves into the origins of a people who once inhabited the lands that eventually became Asshai by the Shadow. It suggests that this ancient civilization, predating even the Valyrians, possessed the knowledge of dragon-riding. It is believed that they tamed dragons and, in some mysterious way, passed down this profound wisdom to the Valyrians."

Jaehaerys' keen eyes narrowed further, his curiosity piqued by Aemon's revelations. "Continue, Aemon," he urged. The young prince hesitated for a moment before gathering his thoughts and continuing, his words carefully chosen.

Jaehaerys noticed the boy spoke well, as if he were an adult instead of a child. "The book suggests that there are ancient mysteries in our world, mysteries that predate the rise of Valyria," Aemon began, his voice steady. "It hints at House Dayne's sword, Dawn, which is said to be thousands of years old and unbreakable. The book implies that there might be a connection to the knowledge possessed by these long-lost civilizations. House Dayne's Valyrian features, despite lacking Valyrian blood, raising questions about their ancestry and the source of their unique traits." Aemon's eyes met Jaehaerys', a glimmer of something akin to revelation in his gaze. "Furthermore," he continued, his tone lowering slightly, "the book delves into the ancient legends of dragons and dragon slayers in Westeros, legends that existed long before our family arrived on these shores. It even speaks of Azor Ahai who is prophesied to be reborn to save the world."

At the mention of Azor Ahai, Jaehaerys' eyes widened with intrigue. The legendary hero, central to the prophecies of R'hllor, had long been a subject of fascination for Jaehaerys after learning of Aegon's Dream. Jaehaerys leaned forward, his expression intense. He found it interesting that the children would even think about reading about anything like that rather than just plays with friends and squires or, in Aemon's case, get thrown into misadventures alongside Rhaenyra. "Tell me more about what the book says regarding Azor Ahai, Aemon."

Jaehaerys listened intently as Aemon delved into the prophecy of Azor Ahai, the hero destined to combat a great darkness that would envelop the world. The young prince's words were laced with a sense of gravitas as he continued to unravel the ancient lore contained within the book.

"A day of great darkness," Aemon began, "falls upon the world, and Azor Ahai is the chosen hero to stand against it. The hero is to be reborn and fated to vanquish this encroaching darkness. Following a long summer, an evil, cold shadow descends, and Azor Ahai, wielding Lightbringer, must rise to confront it. If he fails, the world's fate is sealed with his own. The book says that Valyrians call Azor Ahai by a different name."

"What name does the book give to Azor Ahai among the Valyrians?" Jaehaerys inquired, his voice reflecting a kind, curiosity.

Aemon's response carried an air of solemnity. "The book speaks of the Valyrians referring to Azor Ahai as 'the Prince who is Promised.'"

Jaehaerys regarded his great-grandson with a mixture of curiosity and concern as he probed further into the circ*mstances surrounding the ancient book. "Did you come across this book intentionally, Aemon?" he inquired, seeking to understand the young prince's motives.

Aemon's response was unwavering. "Yes, Your Grace, I did."

The mention of the Long Night seemed to send a shiver down Jaehaerys' spine, a topic that had long been a source of apprehension and dread within the realm. His voice, laden with worry, betrayed his concern as he asked, "And why this particular interest in the Long Night, Aemon?"

Aemon said nothing for some time, and Jaehaerys thought he would need to cox the answer from his great-grandson. Aemon hesitated, his gaze fixed on the floor for a moment before he met Jaehaerys' eyes. "I've been having terrible dreams," he admitted, his voice barely above a whisper. "Dreams of a night with no stars, a winter with no end. The darkness, it feels... real. I needed to understand, to know if there is truth in these dreams, and if they mean something."

Jaehaerys' expression grew solemn as he absorbed Aemon's revelation. The dreams described were eerily reminiscent of the horrors of the Long Night. He considered his next words carefully, recognizing the weight of the young prince's fears and the need for reassurance.

As Aemon recounted his dreams, his voice trembled with the weight of the haunting visions that plagued his nights. The solemnity in his expression deepened, his eyes reflecting the horror of the scenes he described.

"I see a living death," Aemon began, his voice low and haunting. "A winter that does not end, a winter that freezes even fire. Eyes bluer than the ice itself, creatures of ice, Others, riding giant ice spiders that feast on the flesh of the living." His words hung heavy in the air, painting a vivid picture of the nightmares that tormented him. His voice grew quieter as if he could hardly bear to speak the next part. "Children dying in their mother's arms. Fathers having to kill their own children rather than see them starve," he continued each word carrying the weight of unimaginable sorrow.

A heavy silence settled over the room, broken only by the echoes of Aemon's chilling description. Jaehaerys felt a knot tighten in his chest. The room seemed to grow colder as if the specter of winter itself had crept into their midst.

Jaehaerys looked to his grandson and knew now that it was not the truth of his mother dying and bringing him to the world that made the boy sad but nightmares. Nightmares of something to come. The boy knew a truth that men ten times his age would weep for. Jaehaerys said nothing to the boy. But he strained himself to get up and hugged the boy; Aemon was crying into his chest. For now, Jaehaerys felt like a grandfather trying to shield his grandsire from the nightmares, telling him it would be all right. But Jaehaerys knew the truth; he knew Aegon's dream, and he knew that Winter was coming.

Chapter 7: A Dragon's Legacy

Summary:

Aemon spends more time with his great-grandfather, King Jaehaerys, as the king takes an interest in his descendant and brings him to his first small council meeting. Later into the night, Prince Aemon has a dragon dream, and King Jaehaerys takes a grave interest. Jaehaeyrs takes Aemon into the Dragonpit.

Chapter Text

Red Keep 101 AC

Aemon Targaryen / Jon Snow

In the following months, a bond formed between Aemon and Jaehaerys, rooted in shared knowledge and a mutual understanding of the looming darkness that haunted the young prince's dreams. Jaehaerys continued to summon Aemon frequently, their meetings becoming a regular occurrence.

Despite his initial hesitations, Aemon found solace in Jaehaerys' unwavering belief in his visions, even if he did not know why the King believed them at all. The King's trust in him was a source of strength, reminding Aemon that he was not alone despite the ominous dreams that plagued his nights.

Together, they delved deeper into the ancient tome, learning of the Long Night and the prophecies that foretold its return. The book's pages unraveling past secrets to prepare for an uncertain future.

Aemon and Jaehaerys found solace in simpler moments, the pair often engaged in intense matches of Cyvasse. Amidst the clashing of pieces and the shifting tides of the board, they found respite from the weight of their shared burden, allowing them to enjoy the moments.

Aemon embraced the intricacies of Cyvasse, a game he had rarely encountered in his past life as Jon Snow. The game was a novelty in the North, unfamiliar to the stoic and traditional-minded Northerners. Tyrion Lannister had once suggested he learn the game, but it was only in his current life as Aemon Targaryen that he truly delved into it.

Playing against Jaehaerys proved to be a challenging yet enriching experience for the young prince. Though he was soundly defeated in each match. With every move, he absorbed the nuances of strategy and adaptation, refining his skills with each defeat.

The game forced Aemon to think on his feet, anticipate his opponent's moves, and devise creative solutions to the ever-changing challenges presented on the board. Each loss became a valuable lesson, teaching him the importance of adaptability and resilience. Aemon made it a point to avoid repeating the same mistake twice, his determination driving him to improve and hone his abilities.

As the days passed, their bond deepened, creating a foundation of trust and mutual respect. Aemon, once burdened by the isolation of his visions, now had an ally in his great-grandfather. The presence of Aemon Targaryen at King Jaehaerys' side did not go unnoticed within the hallowed halls of the Red Keep. The young prince followed wherever the Old King ventured, becoming a familiar pair in the castle courts.

When Jaehaerys took on the responsibility of instructing Viserys in the art of ruling the Seven Kingdoms, Aemon was a constant companion, absorbing the lessons of governance and leadership alongside his elder relative.

One decision, in particular, stirred conversations in every corner of the Red Keep—the appointment of Aemon as the King's cupbearer. This seemingly small role granted Aemon access to the innermost circles of power, making him a regular presence in the crucial small council meetings. As he served the King, Aemon became privy to discussions of policy, diplomacy, and matters of state, immersing himself in the intricate web of politics and governance.

The courtiers, ever watchful, noted the significance of Aemon's position. The young prince's proximity to the heart of power did not go unnoticed, sparking intrigue and speculation among the nobles and advisors. Whispers filled the corridors of the Red Keep as the court wondered about the implications of this newfound role given to the 'Black Prince'.

As the small council meeting commenced, Aemon Targaryen, serving as the King's cupbearer, found himself amidst the prominent figures who held the fate of the Seven Kingdoms in their hands. The room was adorned with a distinguished assembly of advisors and officials, each with their unique responsibilities. At the head of the table sat the Old King Jaehaerys, his presence commanding respect and authority. The council members gathered around, each holding a circular stone-like gem made to look like a dragon's eye. They placed their respective hems on a small divot on the table to signify they were in attendance for the meeting.

To Jaehaerys' right sat Lord Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King. The recently appointed Grand Maester Runciter was on his left, whose keen intellect and knowledge were highly valued in the council's deliberations. Across the table, Lord Lyman Beesbury, the Master of Coin, scrutinized ledgers and financial reports, his mind sharp as he calculated the kingdom's wealth and expenditures.

The absence of a Master of Laws was evident; the position was left vacant due to recent events. In the interim, the responsibility fell upon crown Prince Viserys Targaryen. Viserys took his place within the council, fulfilling his dual roles as both a member and the prince of Dragonstone.

Corlys Velaryon, the Master of Ships, sat tall and vigilant. Ser Ryam Redwyne, the esteemed Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, exuded an aura of loyalty and duty, embodying the chivalric ideals of the realm.

Amidst this assembly of influential figures, Aemon Targaryen moved gracefully, serving as the cupbearer, a role that granted him proximity to the council's inner workings. He moved from lord to lord; his movements measured and respectful as he filled their cups with wine, his eyes absorbing the subtle nuances of the discussions that unfolded before him.

Aemon prepared to pour wine into the King's cup, his movements practiced and fluid, but Jaehaerys raised a hand, his eyes meeting Aemon's with a knowing gaze. "Water," the King requested, his voice steady and calm. "This meeting may stretch long, and a clear mind is essential."

With a nod of understanding, Aemon replaced the wine jug with a pitcher of water, his gaze respectful as he fulfilled the King's request. The clear liquid cascaded into the cup, filling it to the brim before Aemon withdrew.

Meanwhile, Lord Beesbury, the Master of Coin, seized the council's attention with a grave expression on his features. His voice, measured and deliberate, cut through the quiet murmurs that had settled within the chamber. "Your Grace," he began, addressing the King directly, "I must bring to your attention a matter of great concern. House Reyne and House Tarbeck have taken substantial loans from the Westerlands and, nearing the sum of one million Gold Dragons when combined. They request a loan from the crown."

Lord Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, interjected with a furrowed brow. "One million Gold Dragons? How could they have accrued such a debt?" he inquired, his eyes narrowing as he contemplated the implications of this staggering sum.

Lord Beesbury's response was laden with gravity, emphasizing the weight of the situation. "The reasons behind these loans remain unknown, Your Grace. However, we must address this matter promptly. Such a significant debt could have far-reaching consequences for the stability of the Westerlands due to the number of Houses connected through both of the houses through marriage, none of which are able to take on the burden of alleviating a fraction of the debt Houses Reyen and Tarbeck have let alone the entire sum."

Lord Otto Hightower's voice cut through the air, firm and resolute within the small council chambers. "If House Reyne and House Tarbeck find themselves in debt, it is their responsibility to rectify their financial troubles. The crown cannot be burdened with the consequences of their reckless decisions."

Prince Viserys responded with empathy; his words tinged with compassion for the people of the realm. "Our duty as the crown, Lord Otto, is not just to sit atop a throne but to nurture the well-being of our kingdoms and their inhabitants. We cannot ignore the struggles of our vassals; it is our responsibility to aid them, even in times of financial hardship. A prosperous realm is built on the prosperity of its great and small houses."

Maester Runciter, the new Grand Maester, interjected with a thoughtful inquiry, his eyes sharp with intellect. "Lord Beesbury, have representatives from either House Reyne or House Tarbeck approached the crown to discuss their plans for repayment? Is there any indication that they can fulfill their obligations in due time?"

Lord Beesbury's response was laden with concern, his expression grim. "No, Grand Maester, neither House has sent representatives or shown any signs of being able to repay the crown. The situation appears dire for both families. Their current circ*mstances do not bode well for settling these substantial debts in the foreseeable future."

Lord Otto, always pragmatic, scoffed at the notion of granting loans without proper assurances. "Petitioning for a loan without a clear plan for repayment, let alone with interest, is nothing short of foolishness," he declared, his voice carrying a note of frustration. "We cannot be expected to hand out coin without evidence that it will be repaid. The crown's treasury must not be treated as an open vault for those who cannot manage their own finances."

As the council members delved deeper into the intricacies of the situation, Lord Corlys Velaryon, the Master of Ships, raised a pertinent question. "Is there a reason why both Houses, hailing from the Westerlands, sought loans from the crown at the same time?" he inquired, his sharp eyes scanning the faces of his colleagues for any hints of underlying motives.

In response, Maester Runciter provided the insight; his voice carried the weight of experience as he shared the tale. "Lady Ellyn Reyne, daughter of the head of House Reyne, was originally intended to marry into House Lannister," he began, his words painting a vivid picture of the Westerlands' complex social dynamics. "This match was orchestrated in part to alleviate some of the Reyne debt owed to House Lannister." The maester continued, his tone somber, recounting the events that had transpired in recent years. "Tragically, the Lannister she was supposed to marry met his fate at the Dornish marches, leaving Lady Ellyn's prospects uncertain. Undeterred, she attempted to secure alliances with several other Lannisters through less conventional means, but her efforts were met with failure."

"You mean she tried to seduce some other Lannisters? That must have been entertaining to watch," Viserys chuckled slightly. Aemon felt bad for his uncle. Viserys, outside of Aemon himself, was the youngest in the room and did not know that there were times for slight jests, but now was not one of those times.

The maester's narrative continued, painting a vivid picture of the complex dynamics at play. "Four years ago, House Lannister orchestrated a marriage between Lady Ellyn Reyne and Walderan Tarbeck. Both houses aimed to assist each other in resolving their financial burdens through this alliance. However, it appears that their combined efforts have not yielded the expected results, leaving both families ensnared in a web of debt."

A sense of dissonance washed over him as Aemon pondered the council's discussion and the events and alliances surrounding House Reyne and House Tarbeck. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was amiss, that the narrative being presented didn't align with the historical context he carried from his past life as Jon Snow. The mention of House Reyne and House Tarbeck stirred a sense of familiarity within him, and his memories from his previous life as Jon Snow began to stir. While many details surrounding the Dance of Dragons and the preceding events had grown hazy, Aemon's recollections remained clear on certain matters.

Aemon's thoughts whirred as he considered the information laid before the small council. Once sharp and clear, his memories now danced on the edge of uncertainty. The events leading up to the Dance of Dragons were like pieces of a puzzle fading from his mind. The names Reyne and Tarbeck were not unfamiliar to him, but the context in which they now appeared eluded his grasp.

The information being presented clashed sharply with his understanding of history. He knew, with a deep-rooted certainty, that at this point in time, House Reyne, in particular, was far from being mired in debt. Their wealth was legendary, at least for this time it should be, rivaled only by House Lannister, owing to the rich gold mines beneath their ancestral castle that went dry only a few decades before the birth of Jon Snow.

As the council spoke of debts and financial woes, Aemon's mind drew upon the events that were meant to unfold decades later, events that would shape House Reyne's fate and catapult Tywin Lannister into prominence. The scenario described in the council chamber was eerily similar to the circ*mstances that would ultimately lead to Tywin Lannister's infamous eradication of House Reyne and House Tarbeck, solidifying his family's dominance in the Westerlands.

In the midst of the council's fervent debate, Prince Viserys Targaryen, displaying his characteristic compassion, interjected, "I believe it would be wise to offer the loan to Houses Reyne and Tarbeck. The crown has a duty to assist its vassals in times of need."

Lord Otto Hightower, ever the pragmatic hand of the King, courteously disagreed. "Your grace, I understand your sentiment, but it is not practical to provide financial aid without a clear plan for repayment. We must exercise caution in our decisions. Especially when both houses are already in debt and own money already from others in the Westerland."

Master of Ships, Lord Corlys Velaryon, added his perspective, "I concur with Lord Otto. While the crown must support its subjects, we cannot afford to squander resources without assurance of their return."

The council chamber buzzed with dissenting voices until King Jaehaerys, the voice of authority, intervened. His gaze shifted to Aemon, who had been silently pondering the matter. "Aemon," Jaehaerys said, his tone carrying a sense of anticipation, "what are your thoughts on this matter?"Lord Otto attempted to dismiss Aemon's input, dismissing him as a child, but Jaehaerys silenced him with a raised hand. "Let the prince speak," he commanded.

Taking a moment to collect his thoughts, Aemon carefully considered his words. "Your grace, I believe we can offer aid to Houses Reyne and Tarbeck, but it should be contingent upon receiving letters from them outlining a clear plan for repayment. If they can provide evidence of their ability to return the money, then providing assistance would not be a waste. We must ensure that the crown's resources are utilized wisely and effectively."

King Jaehaerys, a smile playing upon his lips, nodded in agreement with Aemon's proposal. Aemon knew the answer was simple enough: only help them if they proved they could pay it back. It was the answer Jaehaerys was going to say, but they waited for Aemon to say it, and Aemon knew that.

Jaehaerys' smile was a soft whisper of a line; age had restricted the smile that most Taragryens' had, which somehow looked more genuine than any other smile in the world, and yet, to some, a Targaryen smile looked thrice as forced as it should be. "We shall proceed with Prince Aemon's plan. Letters from Houses Reyne and Tarbeck outlining their repayment strategies will be the prerequisite for any financial assistance."

As the council prepared to conclude, Lord Corlys Velaryon, Master of Ships, brought forth another matter of concern. "Your grace," he began, "House Greyjoy has been expanding its fleet and demonstrating increased activity. It is a development that warrants our attention."

Lord Otto Hightower, with his characteristic bluntness in the small council, dismissed the concern. "Lord Corlys, your fleet is the largest in the realm. There should be no apprehension about a bit of competition from the Iron Islands. If need be, your forces are more than capable of crushing any threat they pose. And increasing the fleet's strength is an option if all else fails."

Several council members nodded in agreement with Ser Otto's assertion, emphasizing the might of House Velaryon's naval power. Prince Viserys, however, offered a different perspective. "Increasing our own fleets might be perceived as aggression by the Iron Islands. We must be cautious not to escalate tensions unnecessarily." Jaehaerys said nothing but looked to his grandson; he nodded with a sigh but ordered Lord Corlys to keep an eye on the Iron Islands, discreetly if possible. Jaehaerys did not wish to be the one to provoke action, but he was prepared to end the confrontation.

The maester cleared his throat, drawing the council's attention. "Your grace," he began, "I have received a letter from the Night's Watch. They report a significant surge in wildling activity over the past few years, with the intensity doubling in the last several months. Encounters with wildlings have become a frequent occurrence, with battles involving as many as a hundred wildlings at a time."

Lord Otto Hightower couldn't conceal his skepticism. "The Night's Watch is meant to guard us from wildlings. These curiosities beyond the Wall have no bearing on the safety of the Seven Kingdoms."

Aemon said nothing, but he kept watch as he kept the wine by his side to refill the cups of the lords once they emptied. His body was ready, but his mind was on the Freefolk; they should not be active now. There were no invasions from beyond the Wall between Bael the Bard and Raymun Redbeard; at least, he didn't recall any ones of note. He thought of all the memories that seemed to fail him more frequently the longer he lived. He could recall one of King Jaehaerys' daughters, the fourteen-year-old Princess Saera Targaryen, who wanted to be a queen. She proposed several suitors, amongst them the King Beyond the Wall, to make it possible, but there were none at the time.

The more he thought of this Saera Targaryen, the more his mind began to hurt as if the memories faded far more violently than they should. Before, when his memories of his life failed him, he reached for them, but they would run through his fingers when he tried to catch them; they would escape him as if he were trying to grab smoke. This time, however, the smoke was fire, and every time he reached for it, his hands would burn rather harshly, like a dragon had been breathing upon them.

Aemon remained silent, but his thoughtful expression caught King Jaehaerys's attention. "Prince Aemon," Jaehaerys prompted, "what are your thoughts on this matter?"

Aemon hesitated for a moment before responding, "In the books, wildlings wouldn't move with such coordination unless someone was leading them."

Lord Corlys leaned in, his curiosity evident. "Who could lead the wildlings?" he inquired.

"A King Beyond the Wall," Aemon answered promptly, his words hanging in the air, suggesting a potential threat looming beyond the Wall.

"The Night's Watch has not indicated that there currently is any King Beyond the Wall. Wildling movements do not necessarily mean that a King has risen," the maester spoke. "As it is, the Night's Watch could handle the situation, and if not, the northern lords have acted as a fail-safe and second defense against the wildings for thousands of years; they can do so once more."

King Jaehaerys, clearly recognizing the potential threat of the Night's Watch and the urgency of reinforcing it, continued the discussion. "How fares the Night's Watch?" he inquired.

Before responding, the maester consulted his notes, "Currently, the Night's Watch has just over five thousand members. It stands at half its strength during the reign of Aegon the Conqueror. Of the nineteen castles, only seventeen have been manned throughout our history, and currently, only eight are currently up and functioning."

Jaehaerys exchanged a subtle glance with Prince Aemon, both silently acknowledging the significance of the Night's Watch in the face of potential challenges, particularly with the looming threat of the Long Night. Aemon's dreams have grown harsher over the moons, and every time he rose from his nightmares, he would speak to King Jaehaerys about them the following day when they met.

Taking decisive action, Jaehaerys declared, "Empty the Red Keep's dungeons. Send as many prisoners as the Night's Watch can accommodate. We shall strongly suggest that the other kingdoms do the same. The Night's Watch must be bolstered, prepared for whatever may come."

Aemon could see that Lord Otto did not wish to linger on the topic of directly or indirectly helping the North. It was known as an unofficial understanding of the small council that Lord Otto disliked the North for two reasons. One, the North worshiped the Old Gods, and as Hightower had close ties to the Faith and the Starry Sept, it meant the Hightowers were extremely closely allied with the New Gods and, in turn, not perfectly happy with the Old Gods. The second reason is Daemon Targaryen. The two rarely speak due to Aemon's father not having much free time away from the building of Summerhall; the few times they did cross paths were not the best of moments, and Daemon, through Aemon and Lyanna, had close ties to the North, meaning Daemon had no less than forty thousand soldiers at his beck and call if he were to act correctly. Otto Hightower did not like the fact that a branch House of Targaryen may have an entire kingdom loyal to it.

Lord Otto Hightower spoke up next, diverting the council's attention. "Your grace," he began, "news has arrived that your daughters are set to return from their stay in Volantis."

Aemon couldn't help but note the peculiarity of this information. In the histories he carried within him, none of Jaehaerys' daughters stayed together in a single city, and certainly, none had returned to their father. Still, he kept his observations to himself, curious about how this chapter would unfold.

"Princesses Viserra, Aerea, Rhaella, Daenerys, Saera, and Maegella are expected to be brought back within the next month or so, more than likely at the turn of the new year," Ser Otto announced, his voice carrying the weight of the imminent reunion between the king and his daughters.

As the names of Jaehaerys's daughters were listed, Aemon couldn't help but feel a sense of confusion and disbelief settling within him. The information Lord Otto presented contradicted the memories that lingered in his mind. Jaehaerys should not have any living daughters in the Seven Kingdoms, no living legitimate daughters; some claim to be his bastards, but Aemon did not believe it.

According to the memories he carried as Jon Snow, Daenerys should have perished at a young age. Viserra, the most beautiful of Jaehaerys's daughters, should have met her end by being thrown off a horse. Saera, the cunning princess, some said she was as smart as her brother, who eventually became a maester, and should have disappeared after being sent to the Faith. Maegella should have embraced a life within the Faith after being almost forced by her parents, who claimed the gods gave them many daughters and that they must give back to the gods as thanks. Aemon recalled, as Jon Snow, Tyrion believed it was done to get in good favor with the Faith due to the horrible relations that Meagor had made due to burning down the sept that the Dragonpit was built.

Aemon, grappling with the inconsistencies, silently mulled over the discrepancies between the historical events he remembered and the unfolding reality before him. The names of Aerea and Rhella further added to the perplexity, as they were the twin daughters of Aegon the Uncrowned, not Jaehaerys. This was six daughters who should not be alive while Aemon was breathing; either they should be dead or no longer in the royal fold.

Viserys, noticing Aemon's confusion, chuckled before offering an explanation. "I have forgotten, Aemon, that you and Rhaenyra have not met my young aunts." He glanced at Aemon with a knowing smile, acknowledging the bewilderment in his nephew's expression.

King Jaehaerys, noticing the need for clarification, took a moment to elucidate. "When my daughters were born, they were not in the best of health due to mine and... Alyssane's age. We sent them to Volantis, where the healing experts dedicated themselves to their care until they were fully cured. They heard tell of the afflictions plaguing my daughters and claimed they had a way to heal them."

Lord Otto, who had been listening attentively, added, "The princesses are now cured and will return within the month." The air in the room seemed to lighten as the confusion lifted, and the council continued its discussions, leaving Aemon to absorb the unexpected turn of events. The existence of six princesses not accounted for during the Dance of Dragons, alongside the movement of Freefolk and Greyjoys, were not issues during the histories he knew; at least, he did not believe so. Things were changing, and Aemon did not know if the information he once knew was going to be of any help to sail through the tides of the storms to come.

Jaehaerys Targaryen

Jaehaerys heard the knock at the door; after Alysanne had passed away, he was a light sleeper, and the lightest of noises awakened from his slumber. Jaehaerys sat up in his bed, blinking away the remnants of sleep as the door creaked open. The golden glow of the candlelight flickered as the Kingsguard entered, and the familiar silhouette of his great-grandson Aemon appeared behind them.

"Your Grace," the Kingsguard spoke with a formal nod, "Prince Aemon insists on seeing you urgently."

Jaehaerys, a mix of curiosity and concern etched on his aged face, motioned for Aemon to enter as he allowed the Kingsguard to close the door and stay outside, leaving the two members of the royal family to be in the room. "Aemon, what brings you here in the dead of night?" The elderly king gestured to a chair, inviting Aemon to sit. "What troubles you, my boy?" Jaehaerys inquired, studying the young prince's face for any signs of distress. Jaehaerys, deeply concerned, approached Aemon with a measured gaze.

"The dreams were worse than before," was all Aemon returned.

"The Long Night... again?" he whispered, a heavyweight in his voice. "Tell me everything, Aemon. What do you see?"

Aemon took a deep breath, his eyes reflecting the weight of the visions. "The bones of dragons," he began, "a dragon falling from the skies, only to rise again, but as a creature of death, a soldier in the army of the dead. It was pale white, fires as blue as sapphires, and burned only like the cold could burn."

Jaehaerys clenched his fists. "Go on," he urged.

Aemon continued, "I see a green dragon fight a red dragon; the red dragon would win but at the cost of its wings, ever to fly again. I see a black dragon and a red dragon locked in combat. The red dragon wins this as well. The black dragon weakens the red, and their offspring suffer, generation after generation. The red dragons never grow as strong as they once were."

Jaehaerys' brows furrowed deeply. "Green and black? But there are no other living houses of dragon riders, even if so in Valyria there were not and house words, sigils, or coats of arms, one did not define the families by sigil. So there were never any green dragons nor black dragons to begin with. What else do these visions reveal?" Jaehaerys, though visibly angered, forced himself to maintain composure. Does their family lose their dragons? That is impossible. The green dragons cripple their house. They could no longer fly after the greens. Do the greens take away our ability to fly? Do they remove our dragons? No, this black dragon may weaken their House; this black dragon weakens the dragons, leaving them vulnerable. "Continue, Aemon," he urged, his voice strained.

Aemon took a moment before continuing, "The stag kills the silver dragon, and then the little dragons of the silver dragon, but a young golden lion kills the old mad dragon that ruled a red castle."

Jaehaerys' face tightened further. "And what happens next?" he questioned, though a sense of dread crept into his voice.

"An old golden lion crowns the stag," Aemon continued, "and the stag marries the old lion's beautiful golden daughter. However, the golden lioness only gives birth to lions, no stags."

The old king's eyes flared with a mixture of rage and realization. "Baratheon, Lannister," he muttered under his breath, connecting the symbols to the noble houses. He took some happiness that the Baratheon in question had been cuckolded. "A union, a crown, but no stags... The alliance will lead to the end of the dragons."

Jaehaerys could hear Vermithor roar angrily in the distance, the anger based on Jaehaerys' emotions. The roar was a threat to all those near the large dragon. Jaehaerys, his patience tested, asked in a tense tone, "What else do you see, Aemon?" Aemon continued his tale, and Jaehaerys had to register the information once more. Jaehaerys listened intently, the gravity of Aemon's dreams weighing heavily on his mind. "A lion, flayed man, and Twin Towers... and a powerful wolf beheaded?" he probed, seeking further clarification.

"Yes," Aemon affirmed, "a powerful old lion helps a flayed man and Twin Towers to kill off a powerful wolf, and they behead him. After that, the flayed man rules over Winterfell, and the dead move towards the Wall more quickly and determinedly, as if the wolves are no longer there to protect the lands."

The old king clenched his jaw, absorbing the chilling imagery. "Winterfell, the North... the Wall," he muttered, attempting to piece together the puzzle of Aemon's dreams. "The Starks betrayed. And the dead advancing without opposition."

Aemon's voice trembled slightly as he added, "It's as if... as if the fall of the North accelerates the march of the dead."

Jaehaerys, his mind burdened with the weight of Aemon's visions, sighed heavily. "The House of the Dragon... we've been lax, spreading too thin," he muttered as if contemplating the consequences of their actions.

He looked to the boy, far smarter than a boy his age had any right to be; he looked to the future of their house. If Viserys had no sons, Daemon would rule, and after him would be Aemon. Aemon could sit on the Iron Throne, and while the thought of Daemon being another Meagor was not appealing, looking to Aemon, he could see a younger version of himself, cunning and loyal to the house. Mayhaps he could bestow upon the boy all that he knows so that if Aemon sits on the throne, the boy would already be as wise as the Old King with none of the mistakes, an idea Jaehaerys was very fond of. The North was strong and would support Aemon; if Aemon were to get a strong enough dragon, some of the other kingdoms would fall in line.

Jaehaerys would ensure Viserys was as ready as possible, but he could also plant the seeds for the future after Viserys as well. He may have been bad to his family and children, but Jahaerys would not fail their house and the future as he did his children. He thought of his youngest daughters, all six of whom were born on the same day, a surprise, to say the least. Their father was old and would not be able to raise them, not that he was good at it. It would be to Viserys and Aemma that his children would have, not parents, and through Aemon, they might have a strong family head. Jaehaerys had many things to ready before he died, whenever that might be. He looked to Aemon. Viserys may be the next step, but Aemon may be the running leap that follows.

Jaehaerys pondered the weight of his own words before suggesting, Jaehaerys made a decision. "Come, Aemon. There's something I need to show you." With the kingsguard, Ser Ryam Redwyne and Ser Harrold Westerling, accompanying them, they ventured through the silent corridors of the Red Keep, shrouded in the pre-dawn darkness.

King Jahaerys reached the stables and ordered a wheelhouse to be ready for him and Aemon; they would be going to the Dragonpit. The people read the wheelhouse with no questions. Jaehaerys and Aemon waited as they looked at the horses, and Jaehaerys could see that they were drawn to the boy in a way that he recalled Daemon speaking the horses did with Lyanna. The horses seemed to move in their stables, trying to inch closer to the boy as he petted and brushed the hair on the check of a newlyborn mare.

Jaehaerys wondered if the boy would also inherit the late princess's skill on horseback, that, with Daemon's skill with a sword and lance, would make Aemon the victor of many tourneys, but Jaehaerys knew in his heart that in the case of Aemon that it would on the battlefield that Aemon would shine. He would pray for the boy to avoid war in his life, but the gods were cruel; they do not answer prayers, they are cruel, and if they weren't, they wouldn't be gods. Once the wheelhouse was ready, they entered and left the Red Keep.

The wheelhouse rumbled through the damp streets of King's Landing, the sounds of hooves and creaking wheels reverberating in the quiet morning air. Jaehaerys, accompanied by Aemon, observed the city coming to life as the sun's first rays cast a soft glow on the wet cobblestone streets. Vendors and merchants began to set up their stalls, and the air carried the mingling scents of fresh bread, grilled meats, and various goods.

Jaehaerys reflected on how infrequently he had ventured beyond the walls of the Red Keep in recent years, the weight of the crown keeping him bound to his seat of power. The city's grand structures and bustling activity reminded him that life continued beyond the walls of his fortress.

He noticed Aemon's gaze fixated on the people outside, their daily routines unfolding like a tapestry of ordinary lives. Jaehaerys smiled, appreciating the curiosity and wonder in his great-grandson's eyes as he observed the ebb and flow of the city waking up.

The wheelhouse gradually approached the grand structure of the Dragonpit, a place of both historical significance and present-day importance. The looming structure came into view. As they arrived, Jaehaerys prepared to unveil a piece of their legacy to Aemon within the hallowed halls of the Dragonpit.

Its immense dome, charred and blackened from the fires of dragon breath, reached into the sky, dominating the skyline of King's Landing. Jaehaerys could no longer recall the sept that once stood on Rhaenys' Hill, the hill that the Dragonpit now sat upon.

As they entered, the distinct scent of dragons and the lingering aroma of sulfur permeated the air. The Dragonpit was a place of awe and reverence, where the great beasts had once roosted and soared through the skies of Westeros.

The Dragonkeepers, a group descended from bastard lines of House Targaryen, bustled about their duties. They were responsible for the care and protection of the dragons, and their presence added to the mystique of the Dragonpit. The head of the Dragonkeepers, an older man with a crown of silver hair and deep purple eyes, approached with a respectful bow.

Speaking in High Valyrian, he inquired whether King Jaehaerys had come to assist young Prince Aemon in the quest to find a dragon to ride. Jaehaerys, not answering directly, requested to be led to Vermithor. The Dragonkeepers nodded in acknowledgment and guided the king and his great-grandson deeper into the heart of the Dragonpit.

The deep caves of the Dragonpit were an otherworldly realm, a subterranean labyrinth created by the dragons themselves. As they ventured further, the extremely large passageways became darker, the flickering light from torches casting eerie shadows on the rough-hewn walls. Heavy with the scent of sulfur and dragon musk, the air hung thick and oppressive.

The heat intensified the deeper they delved as if the very heart of a dragon's flame resided within the bowels of the earth. Beads of sweat formed on the brows of those not of Valyrian blood, the discomfort growing with each step. The stagnant and humid air clung to their skin as they navigated the labyrinthine tunnels.

Yet, undeterred, Jaehaerys pressed on, his familiarity with the Dragonpit evident in the way he navigated the passages. The Dragonkeepers, accustomed to this environment, led the way with a mix of reverence and practicality. The distant rumblings and occasional shifts in the cavern signaled the presence of the great dragons that lay within.

The journey through the depths continued, guided by torchlight, until the group arrived at a cavern where Vermithor, the Bronze Fury, rested. The massive dragon, its scales reflecting the torchlight like burnished metal, stirred as they approached, acknowledging the presence of its Targaryen rider.

Vermithor's mighty form dominated the cavern. His bronze scales gleamed in the dim light, casting a warm, amber-hued glow across the cave. The great tan wings, folded against his massive body, hinted at the tremendous span that could unleash a tempest with every beat.

As Jaehaerys approached, Vermithor's molten bronze eyes fixated on his rider. The dragon's eyes looked like molten bronze, its pupils, each resembling a harp string, thin and predatory, betrayed a predatory intelligence that belied his immense size.

The four horns on Vermithor's head were prominent, three jutting from each cheek like formidable adornments and one rising proudly from the top of his head. A grand frill adorned the upper part of his neck, adding to the dragon's regal and fearsome appearance.

Vermithor, though now dormant, exuded an aura of untamed might. Jaehaerys ordered everyone but Aemon to leave the cave, as he wished to speak to his great-grandsire and spend time with his old dragon. He placed his hand on the large snout of the dragon as Vermithor let out a small trill and shook his large neck and head with delight.

The cavern echoed with a deep, resonant trill as Vermithor acknowledged Jaehaerys' touch. The dragon's immense head, larger than the wheelhouse that carried them, turned slightly toward his former rider. Jaehaerys, standing by the mighty dragon's side, could feel the warmth radiating from the bronze scales beneath his hand.

As Jaehaerys spoke to the dragon, a quiet understanding passed between them, a bond that had withstood the test of time. The others, not of Valyrian blood, were left outside the cavern, the oppressive heat and sulfur-filled air seemingly dissuading them from venturing deeper into the dragon's lair.

As the others respectfully withdrew from the cave, leaving Jaehaerys and Aemon in the presence of Vermithor, the dragon's massive form remained at rest, his eyes fixed on his former rider. The cavernous space seemed to shrink in the shadow of the mighty creature.

Jaehaerys, standing beside Vermithor, felt the vibrations of the dragon's trill resonating through the air. It was a familiar, comforting sound. Jaehraerys truly felt bad for no longer being able to ride with Vermithor as he did in his youth.

As Jaehaerys encouraged Aemon to approach Vermithor, a sudden and thunderous roar erupted from the depths of the Dragonpit. The deafening sound reverberated through the grand caves, shaking the very foundations of the ancient structure. The roar echoed outwards, reaching beyond the Dragonpit's confines to resonate throughout the city of King's Landing.

The powerful roar caused a cascade of rocks and stones descended from the cave ceiling, a consequence of the sheer force unleashed by the mighty dragon's vocal display. Dust and debris filled the air, momentarily obscuring the dim light that managed to penetrate the deep cavern.

The ferocity of the dragon's roar resonated through the cavern, transcending the boundaries of sound to become an overwhelming force that dominated the very air within the Dragonpit. It was a symphony of power, a declaration of dominance that seemed to pierce through the very stone and echo in the depths of the cave.

For Jaehaerys and Aemon, the intensity of the roar was more than their senses could endure. It was a volcano made alive, a disaster made into sound. The sheer volume and depth of the sound brought them to their knees, hands instinctively covering their ears in a futile attempt to shield themselves from the reverberations that seemed to penetrate their eardrums and their very souls.

As the cavernous space echoed with the continued roar, Jaehaerys and Aemon found themselves in a state of profound vulnerability, overpowered by the ancient force that lingered within depths of the Dragonpit.

The roar seemed to stretch for an eternity, causing discomfort and disorientation. Vermithor himself, despite his earlier trill of recognition, now appeared momentarily cowed by the immense power unleashed. The dragon's eyes reflected a glint of fear acknowledging the the greater roar The Bronze Fury, the dragon many other dragons feared, would not roar back at this grand eruption of a dragon roar.

After what felt like an eternity, the deafening roar began to wane, gradually losing its intensity until the cavernous space was filled with a lingering echo. The oppressive sound finally subsided, leaving behind a cavern fraught with tension and uncertainty. The Kingsguard hastily ran to the entrance, ready to intervene, but Jaehaerys signaled for them to stand down. Aemon assisted the Old King back to his feet.

Jaehaerys and Aemon exchanged uneasy glances, both aware of the unspoken truth that reverberated within the Dragonpit. Vermithor, the mighty Bronze Furry, had roared in submission and deference to a power greater than his own.

With a deep breath, Jaehaerys turned his gaze to Vermithor, the Bronze Furry, who now stood in a subdued posture. The dragon's eyes, once ablaze with fire and defiance, now held a glint of recognition tinged with a subtle acknowledgment of his place in the hierarchy of dragonkind.

Jaehaerys understood the unspoken hierarchy among dragons, the unyielding pecking order that governed their interactions. Vermithor, despite his formidable size and power, was not impervious to the awe-inspiring roar. The timing of the roar, just as Aemon reached out to touch Vermithor, seemed almost orchestrated to Jaehaerys.

As Jaehaerys steadied himself, he cast a solemn glance at Aemon. The dragon, whichever one had roared, seemed to react to Aemon's proximity to Vermithor in a way that spoke of territorial dominance.

The timing of the roar struck Jaehaerys as more than coincidental. The unknown dragon's protective and possessive nature toward Aemon was apparent, perhaps indicating a unique connection forming between the young Targaryen and it. The dragons, sentient creatures with their own instincts and relationships, were not immune to complex emotions and alliances.

The revelation sent a chill down Jaehaerys' spine, an unsettling realization that a dragon that had yet to even meet the boy had expressed a desire for the presence of Aemon. The young prince, with his eyes briefly transformed by an otherworldly mist, conveyed the message with an eerie calmness that belied the gravity of the situation. The mist that momentarily enshrouded Aemon's eyes hinted at a communion with a force beyond the understanding of men.

Jaehaerys, his voice slightly raised to overcome the echoing roar of the dragon, spoke to Vermithor. "Apologies for neglecting you, old friend," he said, his hand gently caressing the dragon's scaled snout. "I've been engrossed in matters that demanded my attention. But you are no less significant to me."

Vermithor, in response, emitted a low rumble that almost sounded like an understanding growl. However, before their interaction could deepen, the cavern once again reverberated with the resounding roar of the dragon once more; it would not be ignored. The sheer force of the sound sent tremors through the Dragonpit, causing both Jaehaerys and Vermithor to react.

The ground trembled beneath their feet as the force of the dragon's roar seemed to awaken ancient echoes within the cavernous depths. Stones and debris dislodged from the ceiling, adding a chaotic symphony of clatters and crashes to the already tumultuous atmosphere. Jaehaerys, Aemon, and even Vermithor were forced to their knees once more, the sheer power of the dragons' renewed rage overwhelming their senses.

Once the roars died once more Vermithor gained the tnetion of the atargaryens before him. Vermithor's made a nudging gesture toward Aemon. Jaehaerys observed Aemon with a mix of confusion and concern, unsure of what had just transpired. The momentary change in Aemon's eyes had been fleeting, and the return to normalcy happened so swiftly that it left Jaehaerys questioning the reality of the occurrence.

"The dragon wants me to come to him," Aemon said far too calmly for Jaehaerys' liking.

"It wants you?" Jaehaerys questioned, seeking confirmation. Aemon nodded in response.

"I felt a connection, a summons, as if it reached out to me," Aemon explained, his voice carrying a weight that hinted at the gravity of the situation. The Bronze Furry moved slightly to the right; Jaehaerys looked to the dragon as Vermithor nudged his head slightly towards something behind the large bronze body.

The narrow crack in the cave wall, revealed by Vermithor's subtle movement, beckoned Jaehaerys and Aemon to explore the hidden depths of the Dragonpit. Jaehaerys regarded his ancient dragon companion with a silent understanding. Dragons, likewise and ancient beings, often had their reasons and desires that transcended the comprehension of mere mortals.

Jaehaerys understood Vermithor's silent message. The enormous bronze dragon, wise and ancient, had likely decided that some matters were best discussed away from the prying ears of even other dragons. The crack in the wall indicated a hidden passage that led to a more secluded part of the Dragonpit's caverns.

Motioning for Aemon to follow, Jaehaerys moved toward the concealed entrance. The air inside the Dragonpit grew even denser as they ventured deeper into the labyrinthine passages. The occasional glow of dragonfire in the distance illuminated the rough-hewn walls, revealing the marks of countless claws and the remnants of ages past.

As they walked through the narrow passages, the low rumble of dragons and the distant echoes of their movements created an eerie symphony. The darkness pressed in around them, but Jaehaerys, familiar with the Dragonpit's twists and turns, led the way with a confidence born of years spent in the company of dragons.

The narrow passageway guided them through winding tunnels, and as they approached a larger cavern, Vermithor's lair, the heat became nearly oppressive. As Jaehaerys and Aemon ventured deeper into the Dragonpit's cavernous depths, the air became thick with the scent of sulfur, the heat intensifying as they moved away from the entrance. The flickering light of Jaehaerys' torch cast dancing shadows on the walls, revealing glimpses of ancient carvings and claw marks from dragons long gone. The heat grew worse, the heat stronger and hotter than fire; steam arose from the stones as some began to melt, not from fire but from the hot, unmoving air.

Jaehaerys noticed Aemon's calm demeanor in the face of the heightened temperature and the overpowering scent. It was as if the young prince was attuned to the dragon's realm, an innate connection that went beyond mere familial ties. His dark clothes made Aemon look like a living shadow as only the flickers of the orange flame illuminated the pale face of the Stark-looking Targaryen. Jaehaerys watched as, just every so often, the dark eyes flickered indigo due to the light of the flames.

The pair came across chambers housing smaller dragons, their scales glistening in the ambient light. Some were asleep, their rhythmic breathing resonating through the caverns, while others regarded the visitors with watchful eyes. The Dragonpit, a repository of Targaryen power and magic, seemed to pulse with a life of its own.

As they continued their exploration, Aemon's demeanor shifted. Though still maintaining his composure, the boy displayed a heightened awareness as if attuned to the unseen forces that permeated the Dragonpit. Jaehaerys watched Aemon closely, wondering if the mysterious episode earlier had left an indelible mark on his great-grandson.

Eventually, they reached a larger cavern, where the ceiling soared high above them. In the center stood a pool of reflective water, its surface mirroring the dragons above. This serene enclave within the heart of the Dragonpit felt almost otherworldly.

The flickering torch illuminated the ancient passageways as Jaehaerys and Aemon delved further into the Dragonpit's depths. The air grew thicker with the pungent scent of sulfur, a fragrance that, to many, might be overpowering, but Aemon seemed unaffected, navigating the winding caverns with an ease that belied his young age.

As they moved deeper, the ambient glow of torchlight revealed intricate carvings on the cave walls—ancient depictions of dragons in flight, Targaryen sigils, and scenes from battles long past. The etchings seemed to come alive in the dancing light, telling a silent tale of the Targaryen legacy intertwined with dragons.

The dragon roars' echoes continued reverberating, creating an almost primal symphony that echoed through the subterranean realm. Jaehaerys, though accustomed to the grandeur of dragons, felt a renewed sense of awe in the heart of this hidden sanctuary.

The passageways led to a vast cavern, the ceiling lost in the shadows above. The vastness of the cavern unfolded before Jaehaerys and Aemon like an underground cathedral dedicated to the might of dragons. The irregular ceiling, adorned with mineral formations that sparkled in the torchlight, seemed to stretch into infinite darkness. It was a hidden world beneath the bustling streets of King's Landing, a place where dragons once roamed freely, echoing their power and majesty. The vastness and size of the opening are big enough to house the Red Keep itself twice, both in area and in height.

As they ventured further, the sounds of dripping water and the distant echoes of dragon roars merged into a symphony of the subterranean. Stalactites hung from the ceiling like ancient chandeliers, their pointed formations seemingly frozen in time. Shadows danced along the cavern walls, and the air held a tangible weight, carrying with it the history of a bygone era.

The cracks in the ceiling allowed slivers of sunlight to pierce the darkness, creating beams that revealed motes of dust suspended in the air. These celestial rays touched upon the natural formations below, highlighting the contours of the cavern floor.

The deep growl echoed through the expansive cavern, resonating like distant thunder. Jaehaerys and Aemon stood still, their gazes fixed on the shadows that concealed the source of the ominous sound. The intermittent tremors beneath their feet heightened the tension in the air, heralding the approach of something massive and formidable. Each step the creature made shook the ground and made the foundations of the Dragonpit waver and shake.

As the seconds ticked away, the silhouette of a colossal figure emerged from the darkness. A pair of glowing eyes, fierce and fiery, pierced through the obscurity. The ground quivered with each ponderous step, and the cavern seemed to shrink in the imposing presence of the unknown creature.

Jaehaerys tightened his grip on the torch, its wavering light casting eerie shadows on the cavern walls. Aemon, beside him, displayed a quiet composure that belied his youth. The young prince's eyes, perhaps touched by visions or an innate connection to the mystical, held a depth of understanding.

The colossal figure materialized into view—an immense dragon, its scales obsidian black, reflecting the flickering torchlight like a starlit sky. The creature's wings were folded majestically against its powerful form, and tendrils of smoke lazily rose from its nostrils.

The shadows of the cavern seemed to come alive as the dragon emerged from the darkness. His colossal form, a living embodiment of fire and shadow, filled the cavern with an imposing presence. Each step of the ancient dragon reverberated through the underground expanse, sending shockwaves that made the very ground tremble.

The few rays of light that managed to penetrate the cracks in the ceiling reflected off dragon's obsidian scales, creating an eerie play of light and shadow. His eyes, pools of molten red, glowed with an otherworldly intensity, fixated on Jaehaerys and Aemon as they stood in the vastness of the Dragonpit.

The heat radiating from the dragon was intense, as if the dragon embodied the very essence of fire itself. The air shimmered around him due to the heat, creating a distorted mirage that added to the surreal atmosphere of the cavern. Jaehaerys, despite his Targaryen lineage and affinity with dragons, couldn't help but feel a twinge of awe and trepidation in the presence of such a legendary creature.

Aemon, ever calm, whispered, "Balerion..."

The Black Dread, the mightiest of dragons, stood before them, a living embodiment of ancient power. Its eyes, reminiscent of burning blood embers, fixated on the intruders with an intelligence that surpassed the mere instinct of a beast.

Balerion's formidable features spoke of his ancient lineage and the power he held. The obsidian scales that adorned his massive form seemed impervious to the passage of time, a testament to the dragon's resilience and enduring strength. As the dark scales caught the scarce rays of sunlight, they shimmered with a lustrous sheen, revealing the underlying majesty of the legendary creature.

The colossal wings, folded against Balerion's sides, added to the impression of sheer dominance. The intricate patterns of his horns, ranging from the large ones atop his head to the smaller ones adorning his chin and cheeks, spoke of a creature that had witnessed countless years of Westerosii history unfold. These horns, big enough to be noticeable from below, straightened and pulled back, each one black as night. They had smaller horns on their chin, cheeks, lower jaw, and in rows over their brow. Whether twisted or straight, each horn contributed to the dragon's imposing appearance, creating an aura of ancient power.

Balerion's teeth, like shards of midnight, were formidable weapons that could rend armor and crush bone with ease. They jutted from his immense jaws, a fearsome display of natural weaponry that had instilled terror in the hearts of enemies during the dragon's prime. The teeth are longer than spears, each taller than a man's entire body twice.

Balerion's feet were large enough that any dragon less than a hundred feet in length would have been crushed underfoot, a single step, the entire foot stomping dragon as the whole, not a portion, but the complete creature. Jaehaerys could see entire keeps and castles crumbling under its foot. Balerion was far too large, and unlike Vhagar, his weight and size did not strain its body and mere existence like most older creatures who grew too old for their bones did; it did not groan and take heavy, slow steps. Balerion was fierce once more; it was as bold and wrothful as the young, freshly hatched dragons that had yet to learn to fly or breathe fire.

The dragon had grown, Balerion was larger than the last time any man had lain eyes on him. But to Jaehaerys, it made no sense; from what he gathered, the younger dragons had been shrinking, the younger dragons were not as big as the predecessors at the same age. Vhagar had the freedom, food, and space to fly and grow, yet Balerion now was of a size that Jaehaerys doubted the Conqueror himself would have imagined. Balerion was now of equal size to the more powerful dragons of the more powerful Valaryian families of the ancient empire. Last checked, Balerion stretched over four hundred feet and could eat a mammoth whole in a single bite; now, he was at least twice that size now. Vhagar was nearing Balerion and she was only passing three hundred feet in length, a hundred feet shy of what Balerion was when anyone last saw him. Balerion had doubled in size since his last rider.

The Black Dread's growth, an unsettling realization for Jaehaerys, exceeded any reasonable expectation. Balerion's immense form stretched nearly eight hundred feet, making him a behemoth that defied the natural constraints of dragon size. Though folded against his sides, the dragon's wings hinted at a span that could cast shadows over entire armies. So large was the dragon that if one compared the dragon to a human and then Jaehaerys and Aemon to ants, it was a watered-down estimation.

Balerion's obsidian scales, once symbols of ancient power, now radiated an ominous darkness that seemed to absorb the very essence of light. It was as though it's very presence changed the truth of how light affect his scales. His eyes, molten red orbs ablaze with fury, fixated on Jaehaerys and Aemon. The anger that burned within those eyes was not the weariness of age but the primal rage of a dragon ready to unleash havoc upon any who dared challenge its supremacy.

The cavern, now suffused with the oppressive heat of dragonfire and the stench of sulfur, transformed into a fearsome arena where the Black Dread's wrath held sway. The air itself quivered with trepidation, and the ground beneath their feet seemed to resonate with the power of Balerion's colossal presence.

The obsidian scales that adorned Balerion's mighty form seemed to have regained a luster of unparalleled magnificence. Each scale reflected the scarce rays of sunlight, creating an otherworldly glow that accentuated the dragon's sheer grandeur. The horns, once weathered by the ages, now gleamed with an intimidating sharpness, a testament to the rejuvenation that had taken place.

Balerion's eyes, pools of molten rage, burned with an intensity that surpassed anything Jaehaerys had witnessed in his long years. The anger radiating from the Black Dread was palpable, as if the dragon harbored an indomitable spirit that defied the constraints of time.

Jaehaerys, despite his deep connection with dragons, felt a sense of unease in the presence of Balerion's newfound power. The dragon's resurgence had shattered the preconceived notions of aging and decline, replacing them with an ominous aura of strength and fury.

Balerion's massive head, adorned with ominous horns and crowned with teeth like blackened spires, descended to a level where it towered over Aemon. The eyes, pools of molten red, bore into the young prince, and at that moment, Aemon seemed to be under the scrutinizing gaze of an ancient force. The sheer proximity to the Black Dread, with eyes twice the size of a man's body, instilled a sense of awe and trepidation.

As Balerion drew nearer, his cavernous maw opened, revealing teeth that defied the conventional bounds of size. Each obsidian fang, as long as a dozen feet, lay bare and ready to rend flesh from bone. The dragon's growl, a thunderous symphony that echoed through the Dragonpit, reverberated against the cavern walls, creating an atmosphere pregnant with the impending threat of raw, unbridled power.

To Jaehaerys, Aemon seemed entranced by the grandeur of the colossal dragon, and stood in silent reverence, absorbing the magnitude of the ancient creature before him. Jaehaerys, too, felt the weight of the moment, realizing that Balerion's proximity demanded both awe and respect. The Black Dread's teeth, sharp and imposing, were a stark reminder of the primal nature of dragons, a force that transcended the familiarity of men.

As Aemon cautiously approached the colossal head of Balerion, the dragon regarded him with a mix of curiosity and latent power. Jaehaerys observed with a mixture of fascination and concern. Aemon, undeterred by the immense danger that lurked within the proximity of the Black Dread, took deliberate steps, ensuring that every movement was measured and purposeful.

The young prince, his hand encased in a black glove, moved slowly, revealing his bare hand as he extended it towards Balerion's colossal head. The dragon, its molten red eyes fixed on Aemon, continued to emit a deep growl that reverberated through the cavernous space. The tension in the air was palpable, a delicate balance between the primal instincts of a dragon and the calculated demeanor of a Targaryen.

Balerion, with a primal intensity in his gaze, lowered his immense head, bringing his nose closer to Aemon's outstretched hand. The dragon's nostrils flared as he sniffed the air, processing the scent of the Targaryen blood that coursed through Aemon's veins. The cavernous space seemed to hold its breath as the ancient dragon and the young prince engaged in this silent exchange.

The deep growl persisted, resonating through the Dragonpit, a testament to the dragon's inherent wariness and territorial nature. Yet, as Aemon stood his ground, offering his hand for the ancient beast to acknowledge, there was a subtle shift in Balerion's demeanor. The growl, while lingering, became less menacing, hinting at a gradual acceptance or recognition of the Targaryen kinship.

As Aemon pressed his hand onto the immense snout of Balerion, the Black Dread, the dragon's primal growl gradually subsided. Once filled with the ominous echoes of the dragon's dominance, the cavern now carried an air of subdued acceptance. Balerion's colossal head, with scales as black as night, shifted slightly to allow the touch of the young Targaryen.

Aemon, undeterred and resolute, felt the smooth, warm texture of the dragon's scales beneath his fingertips. The connection between the Targaryen prince and the ancient beast, momentarily suspended in tension, now took on a different quality. Balerion, whose menacing demeanor had softened, emitted a low, rumbling breath—a sign that transcended mere acknowledgment and approached the realm of a silent pact.

Jaehaerys, his wise gaze shifting between Aemon and Balerion, absorbed the significance of the moment. The slivers of a bound have been set. Jaehaerys watched the interaction with keen interest before speaking.

"Balerion is the only living creature to recall Valyria, its greatness, and its flaws," Jaehaerys spoke. "When you look to Balerion, to any of the dragons, what do you see?" Jaehaerys asked.

"A large flying lizard," Aemon responded quickly. Jaehaerys looked at the child with a raised eyebrow. "A largeuglyflying lizard," he corrected.

"Not literally, Aemon. When you look to the dragons, what is the first word that comes to mind?"

He listened intently as Aemon, with the weight of his Targaryen heritage on his shoulders, expressed his understanding of the dragons. The king looked at the young prince as he kept his hand on the dragon that conquered kingdoms, the dragon that forged the Iron Throne.

Aemon hesitated for a while, his eyes contemplating the colossal form of Balerion. Finally, he spoke, his words carrying the depth of a profound realization. "I see a partner. I see our family."

Jaehaerys, intrigued, urged Aemon to elaborate. "What do you mean, Aemon? How are dragons our family?"

Aemon's eyes, reflecting the flickering torchlight in the cavern, turned from the dragon to his great-grandfather. "Dragons made the Valyrian Empire. Dragons made the Targaryens kings. They are the other half of our House, as much a part of House Targaryen as we are. We might rule the people, but dragons burn the armies. The other families had larger armies when we settled in Westeros. The dragons fought, killed, and died for us. They are loyal to us. Dragons are our family."

Jaehaerys, his eyes reflecting the flickering torchlight in the cavern, chuckled in response to Aemon's profound realization. He then continued, his voice carrying the weight of wisdom and experience. "You are different, Aemon," Jaehaerys remarked, his gaze shifting between the young prince and the ancient dragon. "Different from the rest of our family, different from the rest of the world." He paused, considering his next words carefully. "Most people would say dragons are the Targaryen's weapon. In truth, they are fire-made flesh. And no one can control fire entirely. Fire can keep you warm on cold nights and help forge weapons, shields, and armor. But it can also burn. Left unchecked, it becomes a wildfire, consuming forests and cities alike. Fire is life and death. We can not control dragons, and no matter what the people think, a Targaryen can control a dragon just as much as we can control the weather. A Targaryen must know this if they are to be a dragonrider, if they wish to be a king."

Jaehaerys reached for something on his silken belt and holster: a dagger. He had fingered the handle many times, times of thought and brooding, as his wife called it. He touched the dagger and rubbed the ruby encrusted where the blade touched the handle itself.

Jaehaerys, with the Valyrian steel dagger in hand, held Aemon's gaze as he began to share the weight of a long-held secret. The flickering torchlight danced across the blade, enhancing the air of secrecy in the cavern. As Jaehaerys presented the dagger to Aemon, the flickering torchlight danced along the finely made Valyrian steel, casting an ethereal gleam on the blade. The hilt, crafted from dragon bone and adorned with dragon glass, added an otherworldly touch to the weapon. A large red ruby nestled at the convergence of the blade and handle, its crimson hue capturing the essence of dragonfire.

"Aemon," Jaehaerys said in a hushed tone, his eyes intent on the dagger as Balerion's gaze fixated upon the blade, an ancient acknowledgment. "I need you to listen carefully." With a pause, Jaehaerys continued, "This dagger belonged to Aegon the Conqueror. It has been passed from king to heir, generation after generation. And with it, a secret known only to the kings and heirs of House Targaryen. You will not repeat what I am to say to you until you can pass this to your own heir; this is to be only for your ears, your children's, and their children's after them."

As the torchlight flickered, Jaehaerys' eyes bore into Aemon's, and the weight of the secret revealed wasreflected in his stern gaze. "Long ago," Jaehaerys began in a measured tone, "you wondered why I trusted your words about the dreams of the Long Night. The reason is simple, Aemon. You are not the first in our family to be visited by such visions." His voice carried a somber gravity, "Dragons may have made us kings, but dreams have guided us through survival, through challenges that even dragons couldn't conquer. A Targaryen with dreams is more crucial to our House than one with a dragon." Jaehaerys took a moment, allowing the words to settle. "Daenys the Dreamer, a Targaryen long before your time, had a vision. A dream that foretold the Doom of Valyria. Our House listened, and we moved away. Valyria fell, but House Targaryen survived. Dreams have shaped our fate, Aemon, just as they shape yours now."

"What are you saying?"

The old king placed the dagger on the torch, letting the Valyrian steel ripple and shimmer as the fires heated the blade. The fires of the torch heating the dagger, the dark ripples glowing brightly as the secret hidden in the blade began to show itself. As the Valyrian steel dagger glowed in the fiery light, the inscription revealed itself, shimmering on the blade like the echoes of a prophecy. Jaehaerys, with solemn purpose, showed the blade to Aemon, urging him to read the High Valyrian words etched into its steel.

"From my blood, come The Prince That Was Promised, and his will be the Song of Ice and Fire," Aemon recited the ancient prophecy.

Jaehaerys, his eyes fixed on the young Targaryen, continued with a revelation that transcended the dagger's inscription. "There's something else that I need to tell you. It might be difficult for you to understand, but you must hear it." Aemon nodded, and Jaehaerys continued. "Our histories tell us that Aegon looked across the Blackwater from Dragonstone, seeing a rich land ripe for conquest. But ambition alone did not drive him. It was a dream," Jaehaerys explained, his voice carrying the echoes of ancient prophecy. "Aegon foresaw the end of the world of men, a terrible winter gusting out of the distant North, absolute darkness riding on those winds. Whatever dwells within will destroy the world of the living. When this Great Winter comes, Aemon," Jaehaerys continued, "all of Westeros must stand against it. And if the world of men is to survive, a Targaryen must be seated on the Iron Throne. A king or queen strong enough to unite the realm against the cold and the dark. Aegon called his dream 'The Song of Ice and Fire.' This secret has been passed from king to heir since Aegon's time. Now, you must promise to carry it and protect it."

Balerion looked to the pair and then returned to Aegon's dagger. Balerion knew the words of the prophecy; on this, Jaehaerys had no doubt. Balerion would fight for Aegon's dream, and a part of Jaehaerys found it right that Aegon's dragon would be the mount for the boy who dreams the same dreams as the man who had changed the fate of the continent and their house.

Jaehaerys continued his revelation, weaving the tapestry of Targaryen history with threads of prophecy and dreams. He spoke of Daenys, who foresaw the end of Valyria, her Dragon Dreams marking a turning point for their family. Just a century before Aegon's Conquest, Daenys' visions set the stage for the arrival of dragons in Westeros.

"Now, nearly a hundred years later, after the Conquest, you have dreams that further detail Aegon's," Jaehaerys told Aemon, emphasizing the continuity of these prophetic dreams within their bloodline. The old king didn't believe in coincidences, and the recurrence of Dragon Dreams within their family carried a profound significance.

Jaehaerys delved into the history of the secret, revealing that, although tradition dictated passing it from king to heir, his father had broken that tradition. Instead of entrusting the secret to him directly, Jaehaerys' father had confided in his mother. Had his mother not known, the vital knowledge of Aegon's Dream might have perished with his father long before Jaehaerys ascended to the throne. The fragility of such secrets, the delicate balance between revelation and obscurity, lingered in the air as Jaehaerys shared this family history with Aemon.

Aemon, with a thoughtful expression, repeated the crucial words, "Only a Targaryen must be seated on the Iron Throne." It dawned on him—the reason for Jaehaerys' decisions regarding the succession. His realization painted a picture of the intricate dance of politics and prophecy that shaped the Targaryen legacy. "You wanted Viserys to be your heir because Laenor was a Velaryon," Aemon declared, connecting the dots. He saw the broader design behind the familial choices. The knowledge of the impending threat of the Long Night and the need for a Targaryen ruler to combat it became clearer.

Jaehaerys spoke with a weight of regret in his voice, "My greatest mistake was not sharing this secret with my wife. Tradition dictated that it passes from king to heir, but the deaths of my sons should have made me realize how fragile such a tradition can be. My own father died before passing the information to me directly. That's why, Aemon, I'm sharing it with you now. You, more than anyone else, need to know what our family will be up against if we are not careful." Jaehaerys, his gaze filled with intensity, continued, "Aegon called his dream 'The Song of Ice and Fire,' and as you are the son of House Targaryen and House Stark, a son of ice and a song of fire, I believe you are destined to be the bridge between these two great houses, ensuring our family's future, and a stepping stone to what is to come. Keep this secret safe, share it with those you deem fit, and make sure it is never forgotten. Protect our family, Aemon."'

Aemon, standing in the grand cavern with Balerion's roar echoing through the Dragonpit, pledged to the king, "I promise."

Balerion roared loud, loud, and deep, Balerion was not fire-made flesh; he was a volcano made flesh instead. As the echoes of Balerion's roar reverberated, it was a momentous oath made in the depths of the Dragonpit, sealing the bond between generations and setting Aemon on a path intertwined with the fate of House Targaryen.

Chapter 8: Return of the Six Dragons

Summary:

The Red Keep prepares for the return of more Targaryens. The six daughters of King Jaehaerys return with their six dragons and meet their family for the first time.

Chapter Text

Red Keep 102 AC

Jaehaerys Targaryen

Jaehaerys continued to mentor Aemon diligently over the next month, recognizing the importance of cultivating his physical strength and intellectual prowess. Language was a crucial aspect of rulership, and Jaehaerys, being a wise and seasoned king, wanted Aemon to be well-versed in various tongues. Jaehaerys believed that a ruler, especially one carrying the weight of the Song of Ice and Fire, needed to be adept in politics, strategy, and communication.

To achieve this, Jaehaerys arranged for fluent speakers and writers of different languages to be brought to the Red Keep. Aemon was immersed in studying these languages, expanding his linguistic abilities under the guidance of skilled tutors. Jaehaerys knew Aemon had been studying with the maester with the begging of certain tongues, but Jaehaerys wished to know, before his death, that things would be set right or at least that Aemon was able to right his wrongs for the old man. Whether it was the Common Tongue, High Valyrian, the Old Tongue, or other languages spoken across the vast expanse of Westeros, Essos, and beyond, Aemon delved into the intricacies of communication.

In addition to the intellectual pursuits, Jaehaerys emphasized physical training for Aemon. Aemon was already squiring for Ser Harrold Westerling, ensuring Aemon developed martial skills, Aemon spent more time with the blade than he did with paper and quill. This holistic approach aimed to mold Aemon into a ruler who could navigate the complexities of politics, diplomacy, and warfare. The training grounds echoed with the clash of steel, and reports suggested that Aemon exhibited remarkable skill with a blade. Some even went so far as to predict that, with his burgeoning swordsmanship, Aemon could stand toe-to-toe with renowned fighters like the Sword of the Morning from House Dayne. Jaehaerys knew they were most flatterings, but Aemon was gifted with the blade more than his mind, which was telling. Some claimed the boy seemed to have a way with the blade that spoke of far more years of experience than the five-name day boy should have had; the squires stood no chance.

Amidst Aemon's diverse education, Jaehaerys observed his great-grandson's foray into the world of music and instruments. Aemon's inclination toward musical arts manifested in his participation with bards and bands. The boy exhibited a notable talent for various instruments, but the harp truly showcased his prodigious abilities, his melodic voice finding its perfect counterpart.

Yet, beneath the musical brilliance, a palpable sense of melancholy lingered around Aemon. The haunting strains of his melodies seemed to echo the unseen depths of his emotions. Jaehaerys recognized the lonesomeness that gripped the young Targaryen, a profound solitude that transcended the vibrancy of his pursuits.

Perhaps Aemon found solace and expression in the music, a medium that allowed him to articulate the depths of his feelings. Jaehaerys sought to understand the source of this underlying sadness and provide the support needed to alleviate it.

Jaehaerys, despite the joy brought by Aemon's presence and the shared moments of education, couldn't shake the underlying irritation fueled by the troubles stirred by Aemon's father, Daemon. Summerhall, a project that should have been progressing ahead of schedule, faced setbacks due to mounting tensions with the Dornish. Once swift and promising, the construction crawled at a pace typical of most castles.

The rising tensions with Dorne, orchestrated or exacerbated by Daemon, posed a looming challenge. The ambitious construction, meant to be a hallmark of the Targaryen legacy, was now progressing at a pace more characteristic of standard castle builds. Daemon's confrontations with the Dornish posed a significant challenge, creating ripples of discord that threatened to amplify over time. While Jaehaerys relished the opportunity to guide Aemon's education and witness the blossoming talents of his great-grandson, the looming shadow of political tensions, exacerbated by Daemon's actions, cast a pall over the Red Keep. Jaehaerys, aware of the potential ramifications for the Seven Kingdoms, foresaw the issues persisting into Viserys' reign.

Many concerns occupied Jaehaerys' mind; the wildlings beyond the Wall loomed as a persistent challenge. The wildlings seemed to keep growing in number, and due to the Night's Watch only having a few thousand, many did not suspect they could face off the tens of thousands, or in some claims, hundred thousand wildlings marching South. But they did confirm that there was a new King Beyond the Wall, a giant of a man, supposedly having reddish copper hair and deep blue eyes like the Others; they called him Torrhen Wolfsbane of the Thenn.

The imperative to bolster the Night's Watch with as many prisoners as possible weighed heavily on the king; he had sent many from the Red Keep and suggested, more like unofficially ordered, that the prisoners sent to death be castrated, Jaehaerys doubted most of the keeps did the last part due to them being sent off and not being something they needed to worry about any longer and sent to the Wall. The recent influx of recruits, many of them former criminals, sparked rebellions within the ranks of the Night's Watch, three and counting. The increased numbers, while beneficial in theory to face off the Wildlings, brought with them the grim reality of internal strife, making the Wall a crucible of tension and conflict.

The Starks, Wardens of the North, found themselves compelled to deal out justice with the swift swing of their blades, beheading Night's Watch deserters to maintain order on the Wall. Jaehaerys grappled with the consequences of his directive, wrestling with the challenge of reinforcing the Night's Watch without inadvertently fostering discord within its ranks.

Jaehaerys toyed with the idea of sending Aemon North for a fostering; the Starks had been asking for such, and Aemon would do well to gain the Northern pragmatism and sense of duty. Not all Starks were honorable in the history of the North, but the Starks were as loyal as the wolves of their sigil; never has there been a Stark who has forgotten an oath, and with the Starks, the North follows. Brewing more loyalty for Aemon in the North had merit.

Meanwhile, the Ironborn's burgeoning naval activity stirred different concerns. Though their actions had not yet manifested overt hostility, the growing fleet presented a potential threat that Jaehaerys could not afford to dismiss lightly. Their fleet had now become contented for Corlys Velaryon's; while not as strong, they were now at least something the Lord of the Tides had to be wary of. While it took Corlys most of his life to build his family to the ability to forge the fleet, the Iron Islands had many houses, and each had the goal of making the entire Iron Islands stronger.

As the impending return of Jaehaerys' daughters from Volantis loomed closer, the king grappled with the poignant awareness of his limitations. The passing years had etched their toll on him, rendering him too frail and weathered to actively participate in the upbringing of his children. Alysanne's unexpected pregnancy had been a revelation, each subsequent surprise compounding the astonishment. The birth of not one but six daughters stretched the boundaries of expectation.

Jaehaerys, reflective and contemplative, harbored a sense of regret for being unable to play a more active role in his daughters' lives. The storm at sea, delaying their return by a week, only accentuated the temporal constraints. Yet, in Aemon, the king saw a glimmer of hope. The Stark ethos, grounded in the concept of a familial pack akin to the wolves of the North, resonated with the young prince. Jaehaerys clung to the belief that Aemon's influence would foster the strength and resilience needed for his daughters to blossom into formidable princesses of the realm.

Jaehaerys reclined on the ornate chair in his bedroom, the carved wood adorned with dragons seemingly frozen in the act of flight. He had called one of the kingsgaurd to get Viserys for the pair to speak. The candlelight flickered, casting an ethereal glow across the room. As he summoned Viserys, the fireplace at the far corner of the room, a room larger than most apartments in the city of King's Landing, flickered and left the room warm. Even if the cold and snow were not there yet, as the Starks said, winter was coming, and Jaehaerys feared that he could no longer last another one as his bones were very brittle, weak, and easy to chill.

Viserys Targaryen, the uncle of Aemon and father to Rhaenyra, entered the room with regality. The Kingsguard had conveyed the urgency of the king's request, leading him to the private quarters where Jaehaerys awaited.

"Your Grace," Viserys intoned with a respectful nod, his silver hair reflecting the glimmer of the candlelight. Jaehaerys reciprocated the gesture, welcoming his grandson.

"Viserys," Jaehaerys replied, the lines on his aged face softening with a smile. "How fares Rhaenyra? I trust her studies with the Septa Myrcella proceed as planned?"

A faint chuckle escaped Viserys' lips. "Oh, she's thriving, driving young Aemon to the edge of his wits. The Septa holds a firm hand in her lessons, and Rhaenyra makes Aemon a willing companion in her studies; even if Aemon despises the lessons, he would never disobey Rhaenyra."

Jaehaerys shared in the amusem*nt. "Ah, the women of our family know very well how to get what they wish from Targaryen men. It would seem she is already practicing the age-old art. Alysanne did much the same with me. It's good to see them grow and learn together. They are the future of our house."

Viserys nodded in agreement, but his expression hinted at a more serious matter. "Grandfather, I know you didn't summon me to discuss Rhaenyra's exploits. What weighs on your mind, your grace?"

Viserys' keen observation didn't escape Jaehaerys. Leaning forward, the king acknowledged the shift in conversation. "True, I have another matter to discuss. It concerns Aemon, and I believe it's a topic that warrants your insight. He's been troubled by dreams, visions of the Long Night, of dragons and stags, wolves and lions. The intricacies of these dreams seem to point to something more profound than mere imagination."

Jaehaerys had told Viserys the truth of their family, the truth of the Song of Ice and Fire, mere days after the Grand Council, mostly in fear that he may not be healthy enough to make a journey back to the Red Keep. Viserys leaned in, intrigued. "The Long Night? Dragons and stags, wolves and lions? What does it mean?"

Jaehaerys sighed before delving into Aemon's dreams, recounting the vivid imagery and the weight it bore. "It's a prophecy, a vision that foretells a greater conflict. Aemon and I believe these dreams are a glimpse into a future we must prepare for, a Song of Ice and Fire. The dragons, the Targaryens, are integral to facing the impending darkness. From what I gather, the boy's dreams are of conflicts to come, most of which result in our victory, but those victories defeat us in the end."

Viserys listened intently, his expression shifting from curiosity to concern. "What must we do?"

Jaehaerys leaned back, his gaze fixed on a distant point. "We must strengthen our bonds, fortify the blood of House Targaryen. Aemon must carry this burden and protect the knowledge. I've entrusted him with our family's destiny. I need your support, Viserys. Together, we can guide our house through the trials that await." Jaehaerys then pointed to several books on the corner of the bed and several on the far table. "Aemon has an affliction; once he tries to place the dreams and knowledge on paper, the memories fade from him as if he is trying to grasp smoke with his bare hands. I spent time with the boy and wrote down every dream the boy had, every memory of what was to come, and some things we had to prepare for. At least, there were a few things Aemon was able to recall enough for us to put on paper. However, according to Aemon, these dreams, unlike Aegon's own, could be altered and drastically affected. He has had many dreams and many conflicts with one another. In truth, I doubt half of the dreams would come to pass because the other half conflicted with Aemon's dream before the more recent revelations."

"If Aemon knows the Song of Ice and Fire before Daemon, what does that mean? Do you want me to cast Daemon aside in favor of his son? Daemon is my heir." Viserys asked.

Jaehaerys, his gaze steady, responds to Viserys, "Daemon may be your heir by birthright, but Aemon carries the weight of destiny. The dreams he has, the Song of Ice and Fire, are a burden that transcends mere lineage. Our family's survival may depend on Aemon's understanding and leadership. Daemon is a Targaryen, but Aemon might be the key to ensuring the continuity of our house in the face of the coming darkness."

"Aegon the Dragon was strong; he fought for the throne. Daemon could fight for it as well. He could crush any opposition to our family. He has proven to be a strong leader in the conflicts against Dorne," Viserys argued.

"The same conflicts that he started?" Jaehaerys continued, his tone heavy with a sense of responsibility, "Daemon has his strengths, but the crown requires more than just strength. If the crown were at war, then yes, he may be a great king, but peace time king? No. They need wisdom, compassion, and an understanding of the intricacies of ruling. Aemon, with his dreams and visions, carries a burden that is both a gift and a curse. He sees beyond the present into the challenges that may shroud our future. Daemon might wear the crown, but Aemon will be responsible for safeguarding the realm."

Viserys, torn between familial ties and the greater responsibility, furrowed his brow. "But Daemon is my brother, my blood. How can I set aside my own kin?"

Jaehaerys, with a compassionate gaze, responded, "It's not about setting aside, Viserys. It's about making the best choice for the realm. Aemon, with his insights, is uniquely positioned to guide us through the times to come. The crown isn't just for the strong; it's for those who understand its weight and can carry it with grace. I need you to consider this carefully for the sake of our house and the future of the Seven Kingdoms." Jaehaerys sighed, acknowledging the challenges ahead. "The path to a better future is seldom easy. I trust your judgment, Viserys. Let us ensure that the right ears hear the Song of Ice and Fire for the good of all."

"Daemon is my brother. I can't simply cast him aside. He's part of our blood, our house. If it comes to Aemon or Daemon..." Viserys asserted, his voice wavering.

Jaehaerys nodded solemnly, acknowledging the familial bond that Viserys held dear. "Viserys, I understand the weight of your decision. But consider this - Aemon has the strength of character, the keen mind, the visions, and the heritage to guide us through the challenges ahead."

Viserys' eyes reflected the internal struggle he faced. "I won't deny Daemon his right, grandfather. But I see your point. Aemon might indeed be better suited for the trials that await us. How can we ensure a smooth transition without causing a rift in our house?"

Jaehaerys leaned forward, placing a reassuring hand on Viserys' shoulder. "We tread carefully, Viserys. We guide Aemon's growth and prepare him for the upcoming responsibilities. We don't need to cast shadows on Daemon; we need to illuminate Aemon's path. The realm must see the worthiness of the one who will carry the Song of Ice and Fire."

"Daemon could lead," Viserys argued.

Jaehaerys continues, "Daemon is a warrior, Viserys, a man of action. But ruling requires more than a strong sword arm. He's not suited for the subtleties of rule, the delicate dance of politics. It demands wisdom, vision, and a connection to the people. Aemon is different; he possesses a depth that goes beyond the battlefield. He might be the bridge between our family and the challenges that await us."

Viserys, still grappling with conflicting loyalties, admits, "I want Daemon to have a chance. He deserves it. I will honor my brother. My father taught me how important it is that after we lose the dragons, our riches, and honor, it is family that is all we have left."

Jaehaerys acknowledged, "And he will have his place, but we must consider what's best for the realm and our legacy. Aemon's understanding of the Song of Ice and Fire could be the key to facing the threats looming. This is not about denying Daemon; it's about ensuring the survival of our house. This is about ensuring the survival of our family. This is about the family. It's the family name that lives on. It's all that lives on. Not Daemon's personal glory, not your honor, but family."

Viserys, deep in thought, finally speaks, "I want the Targaryen name to endure, but I also want my brother to have a role. I won't forsake Daemon."

Jaehaerys, understanding Viserys' sentiment, nods, "We don't have to forsake anyone. Aemon can carry the knowledge and the vision, but Daemon can play a crucial role. Perhaps as a commander, a protector of the realm, or even leading the Kingsguard. We need unity, not division."

Viserys looks relieved at the compromise. "As long as Daemon has a meaningful role, I can accept that. But Aemon should know the burden he carries."

Jaehaerys agrees, "Aemon is aware, but he needs your guidance. Teach him what you can, and together, we can forge a future that honors our family and secures the realm." Jaehaerys emphasized the strategic advantage Aemon holds, "The North will stand behind him. He will have a dragon that's unmatched, a symbol of Targaryen might. He has the Conqueror's dragon, bigger than what it was during the conquest. He has an army bigger than the conqueror had when he set out for the conquest. Dark Sister would pass to him through Daemon. These are tools that can unite the realm. But he also needs the knowledge and the vision to wield them wisely. Aemon is learning the lessons that history has taught us, the languages of power, strategy, and governance. I see the potential for a king who can lead through force and wisdom."

Viserys, with a furrowed brow, expresses his concern more explicitly, "The boy looks like a Stark. Grandfather, the people need to see Aemon as a Targaryen, a true dragon's blood. The realm will remain divided if they doubt him and question his legitimacy. Aemon must be seen as the legitimate heir, and whether we like it or not, these rumors are poisoning that perception."

Jaehaerys nodded along. "Perception is a powerful force, Viserys. We must address these rumors swiftly. I will not allow the legitimacy of my great-grandson to be questioned."

"They have been circulating for years," Viserys returned.

"And every time I heard these words, I have the tongues of the perpetrators removed. Questioning the legitimacy of the blood of a dragon is a grand offense; without proof or evidence, it is treachery at worse and pathetic at best."

"We can not stop rumors, no matter how many tongues we remove," Viserys told his elder.

"No, we can not, but it deters the people from speaking of it outright, which gives Aemon room to prove their claims wrong."

"The word 'bastard' would not leave the boy," Viserys sympathized. "The gravest sin the boy committed yet was that he has none of our looks; the people will latch on to this no matter what he does."

Jaehaerys acknowledges Viserys' concerns. "People often fear what is different. Aemon may not look like the traditional image of a Targaryen, but he carries the blood of dragons within him. Appearance can be deceiving. Aemon does not have the Valyrian looks, but that doesn't diminish his blood. His lineage is unquestionable, and with time, the people will come to see his worth. Aemon has the spirit and the potential to lead." He continues, "As for the court and their whispers, we cannot control what people say. But actions speak louder than words. Aemon's accomplishments and wisdom will shape the narrative. The strength of his character will win over doubters."

Viserys looked to the side of the table to see a vase of wine and some golden cups. Viserys rises up from his seat, walks towards the cups, and realizes a sigh. "I suppose if I have a son, it makes this entire conversation mute either way," Viserys says as he pours himself some wine.

Jaehaerys continues, "Even if you have a son, Viserys, Aemon's role remains crucial. Aemon's connection to Balerion and the Song of Ice and Fire prophecy is a force that could shape the destiny of our house. He can be a beacon, a leader, regardless of whether he sits on the Iron Throne."

Viserys, considering these words, replies, "But if I have a son, won't he be the natural heir, the one the lords will rally behind?"

Jaehaerys nods, "True, a son would be the more immediate heir by tradition, but Aemon possesses a unique strength. The North, with its loyalty to him, adds a significant weight to his influence. Even without the crown, Aemon can be a force, rallying the realms against the impending threats we've seen in his dreams."

King's Landing 102 AC

Rhaella Targaryen

Princess Rhaella Targaryen stood at the bow of the ship, her silver-gold hair billowing in the sea breeze like a banner of House Targaryen. The rhythmic creaking of the ship and the distant cries of seagulls created a symphony that accompanied the approaching silhouette of King's Landing. The Red Keep, perched atop Aegon's High Hill, loomed larger with each passing moment. The salty tang of the sea air touched Rhaella's lips as she raised her gaze to the horizon. The morning sun, a fiery orb climbing the canvas of the sky, cast a warm glow over the city below.

Her sisters, a bevy of Targaryen beauty, stood beside her. Viserra, with the strength of a warrior; Aerea, the quiet observer; Saera, ever the painfully trouble and self-centered sister she was, was, surprisingly, reading a book; Daenerys, bearing the weight of untold preplanned future adventures once they landed; and Maegelle, with the innocence and gentleness. Rhaella observed them, a silent exchange of glances passing between the princesses as they anticipated the city's embrace.

The ship glided through the waters, the hull creaking in response to the waves' gentle dance. Rhaella's violet eyes remained fixed on the Red Keep, the seat of power that held the stories of her House within its stone walls. The city sprawled beneath it, a living organism breathing with the ebb and flow of life.

A soft spray of seawater kissed Rhaella's face, a reminder of the journey that had brought them to this moment. She wiped a droplet from her cheek, her thoughts drifting to the challenges and intrigues that awaited within the city's labyrinthine alleys and courtly chambers.

The sisters exchanged knowing looks, a silent understanding passing among them. King's Landing, with its whispers and shadows, was both a promise and a peril. The ship drew nearer to the bustling port, and Rhaella felt anticipation settle in the pit of her stomach. The Red Keep loomed like a sentinel, its secrets waiting to be uncovered, and the Targaryen princesses stood together, ready to face the currents of fate that awaited them in the heart of the realm.

Young Rhaella Targaryen, a mere six years old, stood on the deck of the ship, her small frame barely reaching the wooden railing. The distant roars of dragons above stirred a sense of excitement in her, and she craned her neck to catch a glimpse of the majestic creatures soaring through the sky.

Rhaella observed her sisters, each adorned in garments befitting the sultry climate of their origin, the warmer Volantis. The attire, light and free-flowing, spoke of a culture far removed from the impending formality of Westeros. Rhaella loved the bright, vivid colors and the way the fabric billowed around her as she moved.

Yet, as the ship drew closer to King's Landing, the young princess pondered the disparity between their Volantene attire's exotic allure and the Westerosi court's expected norms. Whispers of the conservative fashions in the capital reached her ears, tales of women swathed in layers of cloth, every inch concealed from prying eyes. Rhaella's imagination wandered, contemplating the mystery of how one could navigate the world with every contour hidden beneath fabric.

She turned her gaze to her sisters, a mischievous glint in her violet eyes. Rhaella, even at her tender age, possessed a precocious spirit. The challenge of convincing her sisters to adapt to Westeros' more conservative clothing excited her. With a furrowed brow, she wondered aloud, "How do women in King's Landing dance and play when they are covered head to toe? Can they even breathe under all that cloth?"

The wind tousled the silvery-gold strands of hair that cascaded down the backs of the Targaryen princesses, their distinctive features marking them as the blood of the dragon. Each sister bore a different hue of fabric, a colorful tapestry that mirrored the diverse personalities within the royal family.

Viserra, draped in regal red, exuded an air of fiery determination; Aerea, adorned in light blue, seemed to carry the tranquility of distant skies; Rhaella, herself wrapped in sea green, embodied the depths of the ocean's mysteries. Daenerys, the eldest, donned bright golden fabrics that reflected the radiance of her bearing. Saera, clad in deep purple, wore the color of royalty, and Maegelle, the youngest, wore deep blue fabrics that mirrored the depths of the night sky.

The princesses, their eyes shining with a mix of excitement and nerves, exchanged chatter that danced with anticipation. The prospect of meeting their father, the venerable King Jaehaerys, added a layer of solemnity to the air. Rhaella listened to her sisters' words, their voices a harmonious blend of excitement and trepidation.

The tales of King Jaehaerys, old enough to be a great-grandfather, lingered in the air. Rhaella couldn't help but wonder about the stories etched into the lines of his weathered face and the weight of the crown that rested upon his brow. As the ship continued its approach, the Red Keep drawing ever nearer, the princesses' eyes remained fixed on the horizon. The echoes of dragon roars accompanied their thoughts, a symphony of anticipation that heralded their arrival in the heart of the Seven Kingdoms.

Princess Rhaella Targaryen's gaze lifted to the heavens, where the six dragons soared in majestic formation. Born in tandem with the princesses six years prior, these formidable creatures had grown alongside the royal siblings.

The dragons, nearing a formidable fifty feet in size, danced in the skies above the ship, their massive wings cutting through the air with a resonant whoosh. The sunlight caught the scales of Viserra's dragon, Vēttir, in a deep maroon-red hue, a reflection of its fiery mistress. Aerea's dragon, Dȳñes, shimmered in silver-platinum brilliance, embodying the tranquility of the clear Valyrian sky.

Rhaella's dragon, Perzys, bathed in the warm tones of sunset orange, its scales reflecting the hues of the departing day. Daenerys' dragon, Averilla, displayed a rich palette of deep purple and grape colors, a regal counterpart to the adventurous eldest princess. Maegelle's dragon, Jēdar, adorned in light blue and sapphire, mirrored the innocence and vibrancy of the gentle Targaryen.

Rhaella's eyes settled on Saera dragon, Sōna, a creature of ethereal beauty with scales in shades of white and pale, arguably the most beautiful of the dragons. But she would not be one of the few who argued in favor of Saera's mount. No, to Rhaella, her dragon, Perzys, was more beautiful than any other because it flew in the sky like a living sunset, the living, moving sunrise that graced the skies no matter the time of day.

As the ship docked in King's Landing, a hushed anticipation rippled through the crowds gathered at the port. The spectacle of six dragons soaring overhead had already stirred the city, and now the people waited eagerly for the Targaryen princesses to disembark. It was Daenerys, the eldest, who stepped forth first.

Rhaella, with wide violet eyes, observed her sister's confident stride. Many of the guards and soldiers on the ship disembarked and helped guide the princess of the ship and toward the land. Daenerys possessed an insatiable curiosity and an unwavering fearlessness that endeared her to those who knew her. The crowds, their faces a mosaic of curiosity and reverence, strained to catch a glimpse of the princess as she made her way onto the port.

A detachment of several kingsguard, their pristine white cloaks billowing in the wind, formed a protective barrier around Daenerys. The authority of the Kingsguard was unmistakable, and with a subtle gesture, they directed the city guard to maintain order among the onlookers. The crowds pushed back slightly, murmuring in excitement as the princess prepared to meet the rest of the royal family.

Rhaella, walking off the ship second as her sisters followed, observed the unfolding scene with a mixture of curiosity and anticipation. Rhaella's violet eyes lingered on the elderly man standing beside the Kingsguard, his silvery hair cascading like a waterfall around his lined face. The crown of gold atop his head marked him as none other than King Jaehaerys, the patriarch of House Targaryen. His gaze, though age-veiled, still held a regal strength that spoke of a lifetime's worth of experiences.

By the king's side stood a twenty-year-old man, the Valyrian features mirrored in his features, marking him as a scion of House Targaryen. Next to him stood a woman of the same age, her presence radiating an air of elegance that befitted her royal lineage. Between the two, a girl around Rhaella's age completed the tableau, a reflection of the royal family's enduring legacy.

However, the boy to the right of the old king captured Rhaella's attention. Unlike the silver-haired Targaryens, his features defied the standard Valyrian look. His black and curly hair fell around his neck, a stark contrast to the flowing locks of his relatives. His eyes, not the customary purple, appeared almost black at first glance. Yet, as the sunlight caught them, Rhaella discerned a depth of dark purple that seemed to absorb all surrounding light.

While the Targaryen family exuded an air of joy and expectation, the boy stood apart. His countenance held a seriousness that bordered on solemnity, an almost brooding demeanor that raised questions in Rhaella's young mind. The contrast between the regal clothing of his kin and the black attire that draped him further emphasized the divergence in his presence.

The girls bowed low, their movements a choreography of respect and acknowledgment for the royalty before them. The old king, Jaehaerys, spoke first, his words carrying the weight of both authority and a touch of nervousness that belied his age.

"Rise, my daughters," he said, his voice a timeworn melody. "I am King Jaehaerys, your father. I am pleased to welcome you to King's Landing and to the embrace of your family." There was a momentary pause, a hint of hesitation in the king's demeanor. He continued, "This is your family. The man beside me is your nephew. He is Viserys, the heir to the Iron Throne and Prince of Dragonstone." The girls exchanged glances, absorbing information. Jaehaerys gestured towards the woman standing next to Viserys. "This is Viserys's wife, Aemma Arryn." The woman offered a warm smile and a silent welcome to the newcomers. "And this," the king pointed to the girl around Rhaella's age, "is Rhaenyra, Viserys' daughter." A smile played on Jaehaerys's lips as he turned to the boy with black hair. "And lastly, this is Aemon. His father, Prince Daemon, is not currently in King's Landing."

Rhaella waited for Daenerys to go first. In her introduction, their teachers explained that they would need to introduce themselves to their family in order of eldest or youngest. Daenerys stepped forward, her silver-gold hair cascading around her shoulders. Her violet eyes sparkled with the joy of a happy child, and her introduction burst forth with an infectious enthusiasm.

Daenerys, the eldest, stepped forward with an exuberant smile, her silver-gold hair gleaming in the sunlight. "I am Daenerys, Your Grace, the eldest of your daughters. I love dragons and stories, and I'm not scared of anything! I can't wait to explore King's Landing! It's going to be so much fun! My dragon's the purple one. Her name is Averilla." Rhaella felt embarrassed for her eldest sister; she was trying so hard, too hard, but Daenerys could never get embarrassed, her greatest gift and biggest curse. Daenerys eyes sparkled with curiosity, and her fearless spirit resonated in each word, a melody of joy.

Following Daenerys, Maegelle approached with a gentle grace. Her demeanor was quiet and reserved, but her eyes held a warmth that spoke of a kind and caring soul. Maegelle followed, a quiet presence in the wake of Daenerys's enthusiasm. Her voice was gentle, a soft murmur that carried a touch of innocence. "I'm Maegelle, Your Grace," she said softly, her silver hair framing a face that held a quiet serenity. Her eyes, wide and filled with wonder, revealed a soul attuned to the subtleties of the world. "I like flowers and books; I like listening to stories. It's a pleasure to meet you. I hope I can be a good daughter and make you proud."

Rhaella stepped forward, she herself a whirlwind of energy. Her movements were animated, and she met her father's gaze with bright sea-green eyes. "I'm Rhaella, Your Grace! I love climbing trees and finding hidden places. Maybe we can go on an adventure together sometime!" she declared with boldness, her voice carrying the vivacity of a spirited adventurer. Her eyes gleamed with mischief, a glimpse into a soul unafraid of the unknown.

Aerea, the shy and timid sister, approached with hesitancy in her steps, dress swaying with the movement. Her voice, though soft, held a sincerity that touched the heart. Her bow was almost apologetic, and when she spoke, her words were a soft whisper on the breeze. "I-I'm Aerea," she stammered. "It's... it's nice to meet you, your grace, " she said in a hushed tone, casting her eyes downward. "I like animals and quiet places. I hope we can get along well."

Saera made sure she did everything perfectly; she bowed perfectly, lowered her eyes just enough to show respect, and made and curtsied as well as any lady could dare to perform. Rhaella, the courageous and strong-willed sister, stood tall as she faced King Jaehaerys. "I'm Rhaella," she announced, her voice carrying a boldness that defied her young age. "I want to be a strong Targaryen princess and make you proud, Father," she declared, her violet eyes locking onto King Jaehaerys's with unwavering determination.

Last but not least, Viserra, the vain and prideful one, sauntered forward. Her head held high; she executed an elegant bow. "I am Viserra," she announced with a certain regal flair. "Your last daughter, Father. I like being the best at everything. And dragons, of course. I am beautiful, and I am the best dragon rider, and..." Saera swiftly hit her sister in the back of her head to shut her up. "I'm honored to meet you, Father." Her words dripped with confidence, and her posture exuded an air of superiority.

King Jaehaerys, observing the diverse personalities of his daughters, found a small smile playing on his lips. The courtyard, bathed in the golden glow of the sun, bore witness to the spectrum of Targaryen's spirit embodied in the laughter, shyness, boldness, and pride of his six young princesses.

As the Targaryen entourage gathered together, they were ushered into an opulent wheelhouse, a luxurious conveyance fit for royalty. Rhaella's keen eyes took in the extravagant surroundings, noting that it was more than spacious enough to accommodate the almost dozen Targaryens within. The air inside the wheelhouse was laced with a mix of familial anticipation and the heady scent of richness.

As the wheelhouse set into motion, Rhaella found herself contemplating the enigma that was Aemon. Amidst the silver-haired and violet-eyed Targaryens, Aemon stood out like a shadow. His dark, curly hair and eyes harbored a deep, almost black shade of purple andhinted at a lineage not purely Valyrian.

Rhaella's young mind whirred with curiosity. Her gaze drifted towards Aemon, who sat apart from the rest, his serious countenance a stark contrast to the chatter of the Targaryen king. She pondered his lineage, piecing together the realization that Aemon's mother must not have been of Valyrian descent.

The wheelhouse rolled through the bustling streets of King's Landing. The rattle of wheels on cobblestone streets was a backdrop to the unspoken questions lingering within the ornate carriage. Rhaella, nestled within the opulence of the wheelhouse, observed the dynamics unfolding among her Targaryen kin. Rhaenyra, Viserys' spirited daughter, seemed a tempest of passion, her words flowing fast and fervent, punctuating the air even when she attempted to lower her voice. Aemon, on the other hand, remained a quiet presence, a soft smile gracing his lips. Despite Rhaenyra's animated discourse, Aemon's calm demeanor held an unspoken authority.

Rhaenyra's passionate outbursts, however, threatened to escalate, prompting Rhaella to notice Aemon's intervention. The quiet boy, without uttering a word, subtly prevented Rhaenyra from nearly colliding with Aerea, a silent guardian in the midst of the animated conversation.

In another corner of the wheelhouse, Rhaella's attention shifted to Viserys and King Jaehaerys. Viserys, engrossed in discussions about ships, boats, and matters in the North, held the old king's attention. Rhaella discerned Aemon's attentiveness, the boy's ears tuned to the exchanges between his uncle and great-grandfather.

As the wheelhouse rumbled through the bustling streets of King's Landing, Rhaella's gaze was drawn to the window, her violet eyes wide with wonder. Beside her, Viserra, with an air of regal confidence, peered out at the city, her eyes assessing the surroundings. Aerea, the timid one, observed with a mixture of curiosity and apprehension, while Rhaella's lively spirit seemed eager to embrace the vibrant chaos beyond the glass.

The city unfolded before them like a living tapestry. The streets were alive with a myriad of people, each with their own story etched into the rhythm of King's Landing. Market stalls bustled with merchants hawking their wares, the air heavy with the scent of spices and fresh produce. Children darted through the streets playing games, their laughter echoing in the narrow alleyways.

The noise of the city was a symphony of voices, the clamor of hooves on cobblestone, and the distant calls of street vendors. Faces of all kinds passed by the window – merchants, beggars, knights, and nobles, each weaving their own narrative into the intricate fabric of King's Landing. Rhaella's gaze lingered on the people; the unfamiliarity of it all left her both exhilarated and apprehensive.

As the wheelhouse neared the Red Keep, Rhaella and her sisters pressed closer to the windows, their faces reflecting a mixture of astonishment and awe. The Red Keep, an imposing fortress made of pale red stone, loomed before them, its seven massive drum towers reaching towards the heavens. The castle's perch overlooking the mouth of the Blackwater Rush added to its commanding presence.

The Targaryen guards, clad in black armor, patrolled the grounds, a visual testament to the legacy that the family held within the castle's walls. Rhaella's violet eyes widened as she took in the intricate details of the Red Keep's architecture. Massive curtain walls, adorned with nests and crenelations for archers, stood as formidable sentinels against the skyline.

Thick stone parapets, some four feet high, lined the outer edge of the wall ramparts, offering protection to those who patrolled the heights. Bronze gates and portcullises, etched with the history of the realm, punctuated the walls, with narrow postern doors nearby for discreet entrances and exits.

The castle's great corner forts added to the grandeur, while the immense barbican, with its cobbled square, served as a gateway to the heart of the Red Keep. Rhaella's young mind raced, trying to comprehend the sheer magnitude of the structure, the culmination of years of Targaryen history embedded within its walls.

The serpentine steps, winding their way upwards, caught Rhaella's attention. The climb seemed strenuous, a physical manifestation of the challenges that lay ahead. As the wheelhouse approached the entrance, Rhaella knew that Saera couldn't help but marvel at the secrets hidden below the surface. Saera may have been a pain more often than not, but her sister's mind was sharper than Valiryan Steel's. Maegor's Holdfast, the small council chambers, the Tower of the Hand, the lower bailey, a small sunken courtyard, and the infamous black cells were all part of the mysterious tapestry that lay beneath the surface of the Red Keep.

The Red Keep, a fortress of power and intrigue, stood as a silent witness to the eons of history that unfolded within its walls. As the wheelhouse came to a halt, Rhaella and her sisters, their hearts pulsating with anticipation, were the threads of their family's destinywoven into the very stone of the Red Keep.

King Jaehaerys stepped out of the wheelhouse, the weight of his responsibilities etched across his features. The servant approached with the news of Lord Otto Hightower summoning a meeting of the small council, and the king, in a moment of resignation, sighed with an air of exhaustion. He spoke to the servant, "I'll be there in a moment."

Turning to his daughters, King Jaehaerys offered an apologetic smile, a weariness evident in his eyes. "My apologies, my daughters. Duty calls, and I must attend to matters of the realm. But fear not; we shall have time together later in the day."

Rhaella noticed a subtle shift in Daenerys, the eldest sister's vibrant energy dimming slightly. The young princess struggled to conceal her disappointment, her emotions transparent even in the face of royal decorum. Daenerys was always too obvious and could never hide emotions; she was not a very good liar either.

"We understand, Your Grace," Saera stepped in before Daenerys could draw any more attention to herself.

With a paternal tone, King Jaehaerys continued, "Princess Aemma and Princess Rhaenyra will guide you through the Red Keep and help you settle. Enjoy your time exploring the castle. I will see you all later." The king's gaze lingered on Daenerys, a silent reassurance before he turned to address Viserys and Aemon. "Viserys, Aemon, come with me. We have council matters to attend to." With those words, the king led Viserys and Aemon towards the council room, leaving behind the Targaryen princesses to navigate the Red Keep's intricate corridors under Aemma and Rhaenyra's guidance.

The corridors of the Red Keep echoed with the soft footsteps of Princess Aemma and Princess Rhaenyra guiding the younger Targaryen princesses. The air was thick with the hushed whispers of servants who bowed and lowered their heads at the passing royals. The Targaryen princesses, accustomed to such displays of deference, moved through the Red Keep with an air of regal grace.

Amidst the meandering journey, Daenerys, ever the blunt and curious one, couldn't resist her questioning nature. She turned to Princess Aemma, her voice carrying a candid curiosity. "Are you a Targaryen, Princess Aemma? Your name doesn't sound Valyrian."

A sharp inhale escaped Rhaella as she prepared to reprimand her sister, but Aemma, displaying patience born of years spent in the Red Keep, responded with a serene demeanor. "No, my dear. My mother was Daella Targaryen, one of your elder sisters," she explained, her violet eyes meeting Aerea's gaze. Aemma went on to clarify, "Though my last name is Arryn, and I might hail from the Vale, I have the blood of the dragon. I look Valyrian, and I've spent more time around Targaryens than I ever did with the Arryns." Her words held a gentle reassurance, a bridge between the realms of lineage and belonging. As Aemma spoke, Rhaella relaxed, realizing there was no need for her initial impulse to intervene.

Aerea whispered to herself and made a comment that Aemon was the opposite of Aemma. Aemma has the looks of a Targaryen but not the name, and Aemon has the name of Targaryen but not the looks of one.

In the midst of their exploration through the Red Keep, Daenerys, true to her character, voiced her observations with blunt honesty and agreed with their sister, not that anyone outside of Rhaella and Daenerys heard her say anything in the first place. "Aemon doesn't look like us at all," she pointed out, her words cutting through the air like a dagger.

Maegelle, ever calm and composed, interjected with a gentle inquiry, "What do you mean, Daenerys?"

Princess Aemma, with her silvery hair and purple eyes, took a moment to explain. "Aemon is a Targaryen, but he carries the coloring of his mother's family, the Starks of Winterfell. Dark hair and dark eyes. It's always winter and always cold and harsh; the boy even has the cold look of one, always serious and brooding." Aemma spoke with a soft smile. "Rare thing to see Aemon laugh."

Viserra, her vanity bruised for being related to someone who doesn't look even an ounce Valyrian, couldn't resist making a comment, her words dripping with egotism. Viserra, ever one to prioritize appearances and lineage, voiced her concern. "How can he be a Targaryen if he doesn't look like the rest of us? His hair and eyes are all wrong," she remarked, her tone edged with arrogance.

Rhaenyra, fiercely defensive of Aemon, shot back at Viserra. "Don't be stupid, Viserra! Aemon does look like his father, Daemon. He has the Valyrian face, just different hair and eye color. His hair and eyes might be different, but he is still a Targaryen."

Viserra, undeterred, scoffed, "He doesn't look like a Targaryen. How can he be one of us?"

Rhaenyra argued, her words sharp with conviction. "You're being stupid, Viserra."

The tension hung thick in the air, a silent battle of words between pride and family ties. Princess Aemma, ever the diplomat, intervened. "Enough, Rhaenyra. Apologize to Viserra." Rhaenyra, with reluctance in her voice, muttered an apology, though it was evident that the words carried little sincerity.

As the discussion shifted from family dynamics to the majestic creatures that accompanied the Targaryen princesses, Aerea, in her shy and timid manner, sought to redirect the conversation. Aerea, sensing the need to shift the conversation, ventured a timid question to Rhaenyra, "Um, Rhaenyra, do you... do you have a dragon?"

Rhaenyra's demeanor transformed instantly, a spark of pride replacing the previous tension. "Yes, I do! Syrax is her name," she declared, enthusiasm shining through. "Her scales are a brilliant yellow, and she's massive, formidable. She is beautiful and gentle and nice and kind! Though not as fearsome or experienced as Caraxes, Balerion, or Vermithor, she's a force to be reckoned with."

"Vēttir," Viserra announced with a regal flourish, "is a deep maroon-red. His wings stretch wide, and his roar can be heard for miles."

Aerea, ever the shy one, whispered, "Dȳñes is silver-platinum, shimmering like moonlight on water. She's gentle, like a silver breeze."

Rhaella, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, described Perzys. "His scales are a warm sunset-orange as if he carries the hues of a summer evening."

Daenerys, the eldest, spoke of Averilla, her dragon with deep purple and grape-colored scales. "She's bold and fierce, a true warrior in the sky. She's like a purple comet streaking through the sky."

Maegelle, the gentle one, contributed, "Jēdar is light blue and sapphire, like the clear skies on a calm day. He's my silent companion."

Saera, eyes fixed on her dragon, Sōna, spoke with quiet pride, "Sōna is white and pale, like winter's touch. She's elegant, like a snowfall in the night."

In the quietude of the Red Keep, the Targaryen princesses found a moment of camaraderie. They gathered, their voices blending in a symphony of youthful excitement. The prospect of riding their dragons, though not yet realized, fueled their imaginations.

"I can't wait to fly with Vēttir," Viserra declared a glint of anticipation in her eyes. "We could have races and maybe even explore beyond King's Landing."

Rhaella, ever the adventurous one, suggested, "Perzys and I could lead the way! Imagine the wind in our hair and the thrill of the open sky."

Daenerys, with a contagious energy, exclaimed, "Averilla and I will be right there with you! We could soar over the mountains and valleys, feeling the freedom of the skies."

Maegelle, the gentle soul, shared, "Jēdar and I could enjoy the tranquility of the air. Maybe we could find a peaceful spot to watch the world from above."

Saera, with her bold spirit, envisioned, "Sōna and I could dive and swoop through the clouds. It'll be like dancing with the wind."

In the quiet corners of the Red Keep, Rhaenyra shared a glimpse of her longing. "I rarely get to go to the Dragonpit," she confessed, her voice carrying a note of melancholy. "Father is always in meetings with King Jaehaerys, and Mother doesn't have a dragon. Uncle Daemon is busy building Summerhall with Caraxes, so we never fly together."

Saera, ever the inquisitive one, looked at Rhaenyra with confusion. "Why don't you fly with Aemon, then?"

A shadow passed over Rhaenyra's face, and she sighed before admitting, "Aemon doesn't have a dragon."

Viserra, quick to mock, laughed and scoffed, "How can he be a Targaryen without the looks or the dragon? It's preposterous."

Princess Aemma, perceptive to her daughter's temperament, shot Rhaenyra a meaningful look, a silent reminder to maintain decorum. Rhaenyra, visibly angered by Viserra's comment, glared in response.

Rhaella, sensing the tension, decided to interject. "There are many free dragons," she pointed out calmly. "If Aemon gets one of them, it could be older, stronger, and bigger than your dragon, Vēttir. Not everyone can hatch dragon eggs at birth, but that means they have the opportunity to get larger and more powerful dragons if they are available."

The procession of Targaryen princesses, guided by Princess Aemma and Rhaenyra, made their way through the grand corridors of the Red Keep to their respective rooms. Each girl was bestowed with her own spacious chamber, adorned with opulent furnishings and draped in fabrics of rich red hues. Golden decorations glistened, casting a warm glow that added to the regal ambiance.

Rhaella observed that the rooms assigned to Viserra, Aerea, Rhaella, Daenerys, Rhaella herself, and Maegelle were strategically close to one another. The proximity hinted at a deliberate arrangement, fostering a sense of familial closeness within the sprawling halls of the Red Keep.

Throughout the day, the princesses engaged in the delicate dance of getting to know one another. Rhaella, with her bold spirit, sought to unravel the threads of each girl's story. Rhaenyra, it seemed, harbored a distaste for Septa Myrcella and her lessons, a sentiment that led her to seek solace in the company of her cousin, Aemon.

The family gathered for dinner in a spacious chamber of the Red Keep, the flickering light of candles casting shadows that danced upon the walls. A feast awaited them, a lavish spread of meats, fruits, and various delicacies. The air was filled with the sounds of laughter and the clinking of goblets as they raised a toast to the reunion of the Targaryen princesses.

King Jaehaerys, a figure of regal authority, presided over the gathering. The atmosphere was one of familial warmth, a respite from the weighty matters of the realm. Tonight was not a feast for the realm but a more intimate affair, a dinner with his daughters and the members of his family. Viserys had convinced Jaehaerys to orchestrate a feast for the return of the princess that would take place in aa week's time. The news of an impending feast added an air of anticipation to the night, but for now, this was an intimate dinner with his daughters, Viserys, Aemma, Rhaenyra, and Aemon.

Rhaenyra, with her spirited nature, managed to draw a rare smile from Aemon as she regaled him with a joke. Viserys, ever the proud husband, complimented Aemma on her grace and elegance. The Red Keep's halls echoed with the sounds of camaraderie, a brief respite from the political intricacies that awaited.

King Jaehaerys, amidst the feast, turned to Aemon, seeking his thoughts on a matter related to the North and wildlings. The small council's affairs were a constant undercurrent in the royal family's life, a reminder of the responsibilities that came with their name.

As Jaehaerys engaged with his daughters, asking about their rooms and their comfort, Danaerys responded with genuine enthusiasm. "We're really happy, Father. It's been a good day."

Rhaella, ever perceptive, noticed the subtle nuances in Jaehaerys' demeanor. While he cared for all his daughters, there was a particular closeness with Aemon, an unspoken connection that went beyond familial ties.

The feast carried on, the air thick with the scent of roasted meats and the clinking of goblets against fine china. Amidst the lively chatter, a revelation emerged that caught Rhaella off guard, disrupting the rhythm of the celebration.

Viserys, with a tone of both pride and amusem*nt, recounted Aemon's exploits during a spar. The shock rippled through Rhaella as she heard that Aemon, at the tender age of five, had broken the arm of a thirteen-year-old squire and bested seven others on his own. The discrepancy in age and strength was staggering, and Rhaella found herself grappling with the incongruity of such a feat.

Her gaze turned to Aemon, seated with a quiet demeanor. Viserys, intrigued, questioned the motive behind Aemon's prowess. Aemon, in a voice that belied his youth, revealed that the squires had called him something that stirred his anger, a name muttered behind his back. They spoke of him as if he were not a Targaryen prince but rather a Nothern bastard.

Aemma, ever the inquisitive one, sought to unveil the truth. "What did they call you, Aemon?"

Aemon's response hung heavy in the air, a revelation that pierced the merriment of the feast. "The bastard Black Prince," he uttered, his words echoing through the hall.

Rhaella's eyes shifted to her sister Viserra, who had earlier scoffed at Aemon's supposed lack of Targaryen looks. At that moment, an unspoken understanding passed between the Targaryen sisters. The weight of Aemon's chosen moniker resonated, a testament to the impact of words and the resilience that dwelled within the young Black Prince.

The sisters knew they would never mock Aemon for his lack of Valyrian looks again, Viserra more so due to fear of ending up like the squires than full loyalty. The feast continued, but the revelation lingered, casting shadows that danced along the stone walls, a reminder that even within the hallowed halls of power, vulnerability, and strength coexisted in intricate harmony.

Chapter 9: South of the Wall

Summary:

Aemon meets the infamous Alicent Hightower for the first time and issues arise south of the Wall.

Notes:

This chapter is inspired byJaehaeron Targaryen - The Northern Dragon byMonsieurL.A, another fanfic about Jon Snow being reborn into the Dance of Dragons. Don't forget to vote and comment. I will love your thoughts on how this is going so far.

Chapter Text

Red Keep 102 AC

Jon Snow/ Aemon Targaryen

The sunlight filtered through the leaves, casting dappled shadows on the ground beneath the great oak. The atmosphere in the godswood was serene, and the surrounding trees muffled the distant sounds of the city.

Aemon, engrossed in his playing of the harp as he hummed a song, sat with his back against the ancient oak. The book in his hands seemed to transport him to another world, away from the political intrigues and responsibilities of the Red Keep. The smokeberry vines created a natural canopy above him, providing a cool shade that contrasted with the warmth of the sunlight.

The sounds of the city are muffled by the surrounding trees, providing Aemon with a rare moment of tranquility. As he delves into his book, the rustle of the leaves and the occasional bird's song become his companions.

The boy's thoughts drifted between the strings of the harp as he played the dreams that had haunted him. He recalled, in his life as Jon Snow, Lord Reed, the one time he was able to meet the man, telling him that because Rhaegar could not write a song for Lyanna due to their respective marriage and betrothal being a secret, Rhaegar would sing Jenny of Oldstones to Lyanna. The song of a woman and man of different places and walks of life, falling in love when they should not have, and their eventual death. The song of a man who was promised to another woman falling in love with someone he had no right falling in love with. Eventually, both stories ended in tragedy, and Aemon thought it was fitting.

Aemon played the tune of Jenny of Oldstones but did not sing the words, the soft hums carrying the depth of sorrows and the soft melody of suffering. The godswood, with its ancient aura, seemed like a sanctuary where he could reflect on the weight of his visions and the destiny that awaited House Targaryen. Ser Harrold, ever vigilant, stood at a respectful distance, allowing Aemon the space to gather his thoughts beneath the branches of the oak.

As the smokeberry vines swayed in response to the gentle breeze, Aemon's mind wandered to the faces and voices that had once been a part of his life as Jon Snow. Margaery Tyrell and Arianne Martell, his wives in another lifetime, seemed to materialize in the shadows cast by the great oak. The ghosts of his sisters, Arya and Sansa, and his brothers, Robb, Bran, and Rickon, hovered in the periphery of his thoughts.

The harp's mournful tune served as a conduit for Aemon's grief, a way to express the accumulated pain and loss over the years. Each chord resonated with the weight of his experiences, becoming a cathartic release in the quiet sanctuary of the godswood.

The red dragon's breath flowers below the oak seemed to flicker in sympathy with Aemon's emotions, casting a somber hue over the scene. The godswood, usually a place of solace, now bore witness to the bittersweet strains of a song that carried the echoes of lives lived and lost.

As Aemon played, the godswood held its breath, enveloped in the elegy of a melody that bridged the gap between the past and the present, between the realms of the living and the departed.

Aemon continued to strum the harp's strings, the melancholic melody lingering in the air, when the subtle sound of a twig snapping interrupted the solitary ambiance of the godswood. Turning his gaze, Aemon discovered a small girl standing amidst the shadows, her presence almost ethereal against the backdrop of the great oak.

The girl, dressed in a simple green gown, had an air of innocence about her. Aemon studied her features, sensing a familiarity that eluded his grasp. The reddish copper hue of her hair and the depth of her dark honey eyes hinted at a connection, a memory buried in the recesses of his mind.

As the girl realized she had been noticed, a hint of concern and fear flickered across her expression. Swiftly, she executed a perfect bow and curtsy, a gesture that belied her tender age. When she straightened up, she met Aemon's gaze and offered an apology.

"Forgive me," she said hesitantly as she struggled to bring her eyes back to Aemon's own. "I am looking for the library. Do you, by chance, know where it is?"

Aemon, recognizing that the girl had wandered into the wrong wing of the castle, couldn't help but feel a sense of responsibility. With a gentle smile, he responded, "You're in the wrong place. The library is in the other wing, opposite of the heart tree you found me in."

A flush of embarrassment painted the girl's cheeks as she shared her tale. "I was told to stay in my room," the girl admitted, "but I grew bored and wanted to find a book to read. The Red Keep is so vast, and I quickly got lost."

Curiosity sparkled in Aemon's eyes as he inquired, "Why didn't you ask a servant to fetch a book for you?"

The girl's response held a note of innocence. "I am new here, and the servants don't know what I like yet."

Aemon nodded understandingly. "It's easy to lose your way in the Red Keep, especially with so many people coming and going. A lady should never wander alone, even in these halls. Come, Ser Harrold, and I will show you to the library."

The girl followed Aemon's gaze and gestured motion to see that Ser Harrold had walked close enough for the pair to now see him. The man had given Aemon enough space to play undisturbed and to ensure that others saw him first and knew a royal was in attendance, somehow the girl continued without noticing him before Aemon.

The girl's eyes widened in shock as she pointed to Ser Harrold, exclaiming, "He's a Kingsguard! That is Ser Harrold." Her manners all but forgotten.

Aemon, amused by the girl's surprise, glanced at Ser Harrold and then back at her. With a playful smirk, he turned to the Kingsguard and asked, "Is that true? You never told me you were a Kingsguard."

Ser Harrold chuckled, enjoying the banter between the two. The girl, still processing the revelation, insisted, "Kingsguards only follow royalty." She kept her eyes on Aemon, trying to discern who he was, but due to

Aemon's lack of silvery hair must have been difficult. Here, he thought that being the only Targaryen with black hair in their histories would have marked him as different and stand out, in odd ways due to his hair being common for most people but due to the rarity of his family's silvery hair, it made Aemon's black seem all the more queer and unique.

Aemon, maintaining his playful demeanor, lowered his head respectfully and introduced himself, "Aemon Targaryen, son of Prince Daemon Targaryen." Aemon, his princely demeanor shining through, watched as the girl curtsied lower than necessary, clearly terrified by her unintentional lapse in manners. With a slight tilt of his head, he allowed a brief pause before acknowledging her introduction.

"I am the Lady Alicent Hightower, my prince, daughter of the Hand of the king, Lord Otto Hightower."

Aemon, his face momentarily betraying the anger that rarely surfaced, observed Alicent Hightower as she curtsied. The girl seemed terrified, unaware of the storm of emotions within the young Targaryen prince. His features returned to their usual composed state, concealing the turbulence beneath. He took a moment before finally breaking the silence. Before she could higher herself, Aemon returned to his soft brooding face. The slight change of brooding to anger, to brooding again, would have escaped unnoticed by any who saw, save for the few who knew Aemon best.

Aemon repeated her name in his head half a dozen times. The familiarity echoing in the chambers of his memory. "You've recently come to the Red Keep, haven't you?"

Alicent, her cheeks still flushed with embarrassment, nodded. "Yes, Your Grace. My father, Lord Hightower, was appointed to the small council."

Aemon, after the girl introduced herself as Alicent Hightower, maintained a stoic expression for a moment. He was well aware of the Hightower family's standing, and the history he carried from his previous life as Jon Snow only added depth to his understanding.

Finally, he broke the silence with a polite nod and a small smile. "Alicent Hightower," he acknowledged her introduction once more. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I must admit, you are the first person who comes to me at the heart tree and does not notice the Kingsguard as a way of who I am. I have been told I am Ser Harrold's shadow-made flesh, and those words are common knowledge in the Reed Keep. When you see either the king or Ser Harrold, I am more than likely at their side. No need for such formality; we're just two young souls in the Red Keep." He looked at her extremely low curtsy.

Alicent, now slightly reassured by Aemon's friendly demeanor, raised her gaze but remained cautious. "Your Grace, I apologize for any disrespect. I didn't mean to overstep my bounds." Alicent relieved that Aemon's demeanor had shifted to a more welcoming one, managed a small smile.

Aemon's thoughts, now back on the present, offered a reassuring smile. "No need for apologies. The Red Keep can be a labyrinth, even for those familiar with its halls. If you need assistance or company, feel free to ask. It can be quite lonely wandering these corridors alone."

Alicent, ever observant, perked up at the sight of the harp, her curiosity piqued. "Your Grace, I heard your singing and followed the melody, hoping to find someone to help me. I am sorry for intruding."

"There is nothing to forgive, my lady," Aemon thought of the song. "I once heard of a man who wrote the song, Rhaegar, the glorious singer." Aemon's eyes clouded over as he thought of the father he never knew. "I heard he would sing the song at court, and so great was his voice that even the most hardened of hearts would break, and even the most seasoned of warriors wept. As haunting as a ghost and as beautiful as winter roses, they called it."

"Did you ever hear him, Rhaegar, sing, my prince?" Alicent asked. Aemon knew fully well that Alicent had never heard of a bard named Rhaegar but she did not wish to seem that lacking in knowledge in front of her prince.

Aemon said nothing as he fingered the frame of the harp. He had asked for this to be made from his own description. As Jon Snow, he had wasted many coins and spoken to many who had met his father, Rhaegar, to remake the harp just as his father's had been. Once he got it right, he tried to learn to play the damn things; for years, he tried, and it was only a few moons before he fought the Night King for the last time that he learned the song. It had become all the more haunting when there was no one left to hear him sing. He sang from winter to summer and winter again in that he and Jenny were the same.

"No, I-I was never able to hear it myself," Aemon said as he looked to the tree. "He died just before I was born."

Alicent complimented him, her eyes sparkling with sincerity. "It was beautiful, Your Grace. Your voice, the instrument—it was all truly enchanting. But the song, it was so... sad."

Aemon, lost in thought, absentmindedly uttered a piece of wisdom passed down from his father, Eddard Stark. "My father used to say anything that comes before the word 'but' is horsesh*t."

Alicent, her eyes widening in mild shock, quickly covered it up with a polite smile, pretending not to hear the unconventional remark. "Ah, yes. Wise words indeed." Alicent's curiosity sparked, and she inquired, "What's the story behind the song? If you don't mind me asking."

Aemon, considering her question, decided to share a glimpse of the story behind the melancholic melody. " It tells the tale of a village woman named Jenny who fell in love with a prince. The pair married, but years later, tragedy struck, and the royal family that embraced her died in a tragic fire. Now, she is all that remains of the people who love her. She danced with her ghosts, those she had lost, and those who loved her most. It's a haunting song, a reminder that even in loss, there's beauty to be found."

Alicent, captivated by the tale, nodded thoughtfully. "It sounds like a tragic but beautiful story. The best stories often are."

Aemon, his demeanor shifting to a more reassuring one, smiled. "It's my favorite song." Aemon thought out loud before recalling Alicent wished to go to the library, and Aemon cursed with Ned Stark's honor, would help a lady in need, even if she is Alicent Hightower, the mother of Aegon the Usurper. "The Red Keep can be a labyrinth. Let me help you find your way to the library. It's not far from here."

Alicent's fear subsided slightly as Aemon extended a hand, inviting her to join him. "I would appreciate that, Your Grace."

Aemon, with a polite smile, offered to lead Alicent to the library. As they strolled through the corridors of the Red Keep, Alicent looped her arm through Aemon's, and Ser Harrold walked discreetly behind them, maintaining a vigilant watch.

As Aemon led Ser Harrold and Lady Alicent through the halls of the Red Keep, the echoes of hushed whispers and sidelong glances followed them like ghostly shadows. Unbeknownst to Alicent, who was happily engaged in conversation with Aemon, the court's disapproval murmured around them.

Whispers swirled like the whispers of leaves in the godswood. "The Black Prince," they said with a derisive tone, masking their disdain with subtlety. "A Stark in Targaryen clothing," some muttered, mocking Aemon's appearance that deviated from the typical Targaryen look. "A bastard," a more audacious voice hissed, casting doubts on Aemon's legitimacy.

Aemon, well-accustomed to such comments, paid them little heed, but the words gnawed at the edges of his consciousness. Some even mocked Aemon's clothing; he wore black clothing, the color of his family, but the clothes were not expensive; even the lowest of lords had more intricate clothing than the royal one he should be wearing. He held his composure, not allowing the negativity to show on his face.

Meanwhile, Lady Alicent, wrapped in the charm of Aemon's company, remained blissfully unaware of the undercurrents of criticism surrounding them. She laughed at Aemon's stories, her eyes reflecting admiration for the prince and the tales he shared.

Alicent's eyes widened with fascination as they walked through the corridors of the Red Keep, her gaze flitting between the grand tapestries and polished suits of armor. She turned to Aemon with an excited gleam in her eyes.

Prince Aemon noticed as Lady Alicent walked around, looking at the tapestries and the banners. Lady Alicent, from what Aemon gathered, had been stuck in her chambers and not let out to see the Red Keep; this may have been her first time seeing it. "Prince Aemon, this place is more magnificent than any tale I've ever heard! The stories of the Red Keep don't do it justice."

Aemon, for a sliver of a second, could see Sansa in Alicent's place, the wonder of seeing new things in the Red Keep. There is a thirst for looking to the corners and speaking to new people, the proper lady. "It has a way of growing on you," Aemon admitted.

She looked at the harp still in Aemon's hands. "Do you often sing there, in the heart tree?" she asked him curiously.

Aemon thought of the tranquil tree before nodding quietly. Aemon had stayed mostly quiet for their conversation; Alicent spoke the most while Ameon merely replied. Aemon would allow the girl to carry the conversation; it reminded him so much of Margery.

Ameon then realized why she seemed familiar: Alicent was a Hightower, and Margery's mother was a Hightower. They shared facial features shared the same nose, coppery hair, the same facial features, same nose, and cheekbones. They were extraordinarily beautiful and their beauty was only matched by their wit and cunning. Alicent and Margery were far more similar than Aemon would ever care to admit.

Aemon recalled what Alicent had asked and cursed himself for being lost in thought before returning to the conversation. "Sometimes. It's a quiet place, away from the noise of the court."

Alicent looked to the Kingsguard as he walked close behind the pair. Aemon said nothing as they walked and saw a painting of Aegon the Dragon himself, standing next to his sister-wives, Visenya and Rhaenys. Alicent looked at the painting as well before continuing. "I've always found solace in books. My father says they hold the key to understanding the world. Do you enjoy reading?"

"I do," Aemon said, nodding slowly.

Alicent grew excited. Aemon could understand why few children their age enjoyed reading, especially boys, as they like fighting and training with swords. Aemon could see that Alicent was happy to find someone of the same mindset as her, even if she did not know the boy her age had the memories of a grown man. "Perhaps we can share our favorite books sometimes! I'm eager to explore the vastness of the Red Keep's library. Do you have any recommendations?"

"Histories and tales of dragons have always captured my interest, tales of the North as well," Aemon admitted.

Alicent somehow grew more excited. However, she recomposed herself; while Alicent had been carrying the conversation and seemed happy, she was respectful and had perfect manners for a young lady dealing with royalty. "Dragons! They're such majestic creatures. I've read about their roles in Westerosi history." Alicent grew thoughtful. She looked at the paintings of dragons and realized something. "Your grace, you father, he rides Caraxes. Do you have a dragon of your own?

Aemon smirked as he thought of Balerion. He had yet to ride the dragon, not making the bond official, but similar to Rhaegal, when he was Jon Snow, he knew something was growing. He only wished he could be with Ghost and his dragon at the same time. Loyal to the very end. "I have yet to claim one."

Alicent turned from the direction they were walking to look at Aemon, her smile infectious, and for a time, Aemon forgot she was the mother of the Usurper, the king similar to Robert Baratheon, a lustful drunk who took something from a proper Targaryen. "Well, when you do, I hope it's the most splendid dragon in the realm." She stopped for a second before turning to look at the people still whispering around them. "I've heard people talk about your looks, the way you don't fit the typical Targaryen mold. Does that bother you?

Aemon says nothing for some time as he looks at the flickering candles of the corridor; even if the sun was out, the corridors were quite dark in some places. "I'm used to it. What people say matters little.

Alicent looked at Aemon, staring deep into the dark eyes, and Aemon could tell that for a second, Aemon's dark eyes were purple in the sun lights due to the way Alicent looked even more drawn into them. "If I may, my prince. It shouldn't matter at all. You're a prince of House Targaryen, and that's what truly matters." She smiled affectionately as if trying to cast out the solemn, brooding boy before her. "Besides, the court's whispers will not mean anything when you get your dragon."

As the pair continued on, Aemon, for a split second, was able to notice a red streak running through the hall. It was too late, and the red comet slammed into Aemon's stomach. As he toppled over, the red streak was now lying atop him. Alicent gasped as she watched her prince collapse. Ser Harrold was going to move forward before noticing the red streak. As Aemon's eyes focused on the aggressor, he realized it was his cousin, Rhaenyra Targaryen. Her silver hair was draped over her shoulders, but much of the hair was out of place. Her purple eyes focused on Aemon's own, near-black, purple eyes. Alicent had quickly stepped back as Princess Rhaenyra collided with Prince Aemon. Aemon grunted as they both toppled to the ground, the unexpected impact taking him by surprise. Rhaenyra, however, seemed unfazed and grinned down at Aemon.

Rhaenyra's smile was contagious as it nearly split her face open; she giggled as she looked at Aemon below her. "Hi, Aemon! I couldn't stand that boring lesson with Septa Myrcella any longer. So, I decided to explore. And look, I found you!"

Aemon said nothing, his brooding face keeping a stoic eye on his cousin. Aemon looked at Rhaenyra and her infectious smile before raising an eyebrow at her. "Rhaenyra, you know you're not supposed to be running through the halls, especially during lessons."

Rhaenyra rolled her eyes at her stoic cousin. Aemon and Rhaenyra were as thick as thieves, but Aemon was the more mature of the pair, as most of the Red Keep knew. Without Aemon to bail Rhaenyra from trouble, she would have been grounded and placed to do chores until she was wed. Aemon continued speaking, breathless. "Septa Myrcella is no fun. She only talks about the Seven and their endless rules. I wanted to find you. Aemon, you won't believe what Septa Myrcella has us doing in class! It's the most boring lesson in all of history."

Aemon took a deep breath and tried to get air back in his lungs; Rhaenyra had taken most of it, and her straddling his stomach did not allow more air to enter. "Rhaenyra, you should be in your lessons. Your father would not be pleased."

Rhaenyra rolled her eyes once more at her killjoy of a brooding cousin. "Father doesn't need to know. Besides, I've been practicing the harp, not that you'd care. Still not any good at it, though."

Aemon's stoic feature let a small smile that only Rhaenyra knew to bring out. "Well, you better not let him catch you skipping lessons.

Rhaenyra's smile returned with thrice the joy as she looked down at her cousin. "That's why I'm here with you. If he asks, we were studying together."

"Oh, fantastic. I'm now an accomplice to your mischief," he sighed tiredly. Rhaenyra jumped off Aemon, pulling him up. Ser Harrold looks on, seemingly unfazed by the sudden collision.

Alicent looked to the prince as he rose to his feet and dusted himself off. "Are you alright, Prince Aemon?"

Aemon sighed before turning back to Lady Alicent. "I'm fine. Rhaenyra has a way of making dramatic entrances."

Aemon observed the encounter between Rhaenyra and Alicent with a watchful eye. As the two young girls stood in the hallway, Aemon felt the weight of responsibility settle on his shoulders. Rhaenyra, despite being of similar age to Alicent, seemed to carry herself with an air of unrestrained freedom. Aemon couldn't help but smile at the contrast between the two girls.

Alicent, raised in the noble halls of House Hightower, maintained impeccable manners. She curtsied with grace, her movements refined and practiced. Aemon noticed the flicker of uncertainty in her eyes as she exchanged glances with Rhaenyra.

On the other hand, Rhaenyra, with her fiery Targaryen spirit, seemed unencumbered by the strict codes of courtly behavior. Her greeting was genuine and unfiltered, a stark departure from the formalities Alicent was accustomed to. Aemon intervened gently, nudging Rhaenyra to conduct herself appropriately.

"Rhaenyra, this is Lady Alicent Hightower. She's new to the Red Keep and could use a friend," Aemon said, casting a reassuring glance at Alicent. "And Lady Alicent, this is my cousin, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen."

Rhaenyra grinned, her eyes shining with curiosity. "Hi! You can call me Rhaenyra. There's no need for all that Lady and Princess stuff."

Alicent, caught off guard by Rhaenyra's casual approach, couldn't help but smile at the younger Targaryen's infectious energy. She responded with a more relaxed demeanor, "It's a pleasure, Rhaenyra. Your cousin was just about to show me the library."Rhaenyra's eyes darted to Alicent, sizing her up before turning back to Aemon.

Rhaenyra turned to Aemon with a grunt from his boring interests. "The library? Aemon, you're such a bore. We should be out exploring the city, or better yet, flying on dragons!"

Aemon looked to Rhaenyra and took note of the lack of Kingsguard. Rhaenyra had ditched the white shadow more than enough times to make it a sport, and Aemon knew that if she did not leave the Kingsguard behind, the man would be a dead giveaway that she was not where she was supposed to be at her lessons with the Septa. Aemon took a few seconds longer to realize that Rhaenyra should most definitely not be alone because she was supposed to be alongside their aunts. Aemon's observant eyes didn't miss the subtle signs of embarrassment on Rhaenyra's face as he connected the dots. He realized that Rhaenyra had abandoned her duties with their aunts, the newly arrived princesses. The two of them had been tasked with helping the young princesses adjust to the Red Keep, easing their transition into their roles as members of House Targaryen.

Aemon raised an eyebrow at Rhaenyra, a silent question in his gaze. Rhaenyra, caught in her transgression, shifted uncomfortably, her cheeks tinged with a faint blush. Aemon, however, couldn't suppress a small grin. He knew that Rhaenyra's free spirit often clashed with the rigid expectations of courtly life.

"You were supposed to be with our aunts and the Septa, weren't you?" Aemon teased gently, already aware of the answer.

Rhaenyra sighed, a mixture of guilt and reluctance in her expression. "Well, yes. But I thought without me being around you, you would be lost in brooding and suffering a painful death without my presence, and, you know, I wanted you to lose your solemn face. The princesses have each other. They don't need me as much."

Aemon chuckled, understanding his cousin's compassionate nature or, at least, her using it as an excuse. "Rhaenyra, they're our family too. They need to know that we're here for them."

Rhaenyra nodded, her initial shyness transforming into determination. "You're right. I'll make it up to them. But let's not tell them about this, okay?"

Aemon's tone softened as he spoke about their newly arrived aunts, princesses Viserra, Aerea, Rhaella, Daenerys, Saera, and Maegelle. He explained how they had spent most of their time in Volantis and were now thrust into a completely new environment, surrounded by unfamiliar faces. Aemon emphasized the importance of making them feel welcome and helping them adjust to this new chapter of their lives.

"Rhaenyra, imagine if you were in their place," Aemon said, his voice carrying a gentle yet earnest quality. "How would you feel if, in a new and daunting place, the one person you could try to trust left you alone with strangers? They're family, just like you and me. They need us."

Rhaenyra, her eyes cast downward, absorbed the weight of Aemon's words. His analogy struck a chord, prompting her to reflect on the situation from a perspective she hadn't considered before. A sense of guilt crept into her expression as she realized the impact of her actions on their aunts.

"I didn't think about it that way," Rhaenyra admitted, her voice filled with genuine remorse. "I just wanted to get out of the boring Septa's lesson; Septa Myrcella is boring. But you're right, like always. Your boring, and no fun."

Aemon placed a reassuring hand on Rhaenyra's shoulder, offering both understanding and support. "It's not too late to make it right. Let's find our aunts and make sure they know they're not alone after I lead Lady Alicent to the library."

Alicent spoke up with a polite yet genuine expression."You know, Prince Aemon, I wouldn't mind attending the lessons with Lady Rhaenyra and the Septa," Alicent said, her tone carrying a sense of openness. "It might be better to meet new people and make friends than staying alone with a book, no matter how much I love reading."

Aemon considered Alicent's words, recognizing the validity of her sentiment. He appreciated her willingness to embrace the opportunity to socialize and make connections within the Red Keep. A small smile crept onto Aemon's face as he nodded in agreement.

"Very well, Lady Alicent. Let's continue to the lessons then," Aemon replied, adjusting their course to align with the path that would lead them to the Septa and Rhaenyra.

Aemon continued to walk alongside Rhaenyra and Alicent, allowing their conversation to flow around him. Rhaenyra, with her passionate demeanor, spoke animatedly about various topics, while Alicent, perhaps mindful of the royal presence, remained somewhat reserved. Aemon listened attentively but stayed mostly quiet, his thoughts occasionally wandering.

As they strolled through the corridors, Alicent, noticing Aemon's subdued demeanor, asked with a gentle tone, "Prince Aemon, are you okay?"

Rhaenyra, chiming in with a teasing smile, added, "Oh, he's always like that. Brooding, you know. But don't worry, I have enough smiles for both of us."

Aemon smirked slightly at Rhaenyra's comment, appreciating her attempt to lighten the mood. "You're quite the optimist, Rhaenyra," he remarked, acknowledging her ability to bring energy to the conversation.

As Aemon, Rhaenyra, and Alicent reached the far side of the Red Keep, they encountered the sight of the Septa instructing six young girls with silvery-white hair. The girls, approximately six years of age, were adorned in dresses of red and black, the distinctive colors of House Targaryen. Each of them seemed engrossed in the lesson, listening attentively as the Septa guided them in the art of sewing.

The room echoed with the cheerful laughter and smiles of the young girls as they worked diligently on their needlework. Delicate hands skillfully created intricate designs on the cloth they were sewing. Upon closer inspection, the designs revealed themselves to be depictions of dragons and the sigil of House Targaryen, showcasing the early introduction of these young princesses to the symbols and pride of their noble house.

Aemon, noticing Rhaenyra's attempt to slip away, subtly blocked her path with a playful smirk. "Where do you think you're going, Rhaenyra? I thought you were going to help our aunts with their lessons," he teased, glancing at the six silver-haired girls engrossed in their sowing.

Rhaenyra rolled her eyes and pouted. "Fine, fine. I'll stay, but only because you're making me," she retorted, giving Aemon a mock glare. The Septa, Myrcella, soon caught sight of the trio—Aemon, Rhaenyra, and Alicent—drawing her attention away from the lesson with the young Targaryen princesses.

Septa Myrcella's expression shifted from contentment to disapproval as she noticed Rhaenyra attempting to evade her lessons. An authoritative glare was directed at the wayward princess, who fidgeted uncomfortably under the stern gaze of her tutor.

Acknowledging the presence of Prince Aemon, Septa Myrcella gracefully curtsied in a display of respect, recognizing the significance of addressing a member of the royal family. The six silvery-haired girls, Aemon's aunts, who had rarely encountered their nephew, followed suit with a mixture of bows and curtsies, their actions revealing a sense of formality instilled by the Septa.

As Aemon observed Septa Myrcella with her distinctive Lannister features—green eyes and golden blonde hair—he couldn't help but draw parallels to another Myrcella from his past life as Jon Snow. The Myrcella Baratheon he had known bore the same Lannister traits, and the thought crossed Aemon's mind of what she might have become if not for the tragic events in Dorne.

In his contemplation, Aemon marveled at the idea of a Lannister willingly relinquishing the trappings of power and influence to assume the humble role of a Septa. The Lannisters were renowned for their ambition and often associated with selfish pursuits, making Myrcella's choice to become a Septa an anomaly in the context of her family's reputation. Even if the Lannisters before Tywin were not a threat to many of the other houses, they were known to be for their vanity and ego.

Feeling the subtle pressure of Rhaenyra's hand, Aemon's gaze lingered on his aunts, the Targaryen princesses who embodied the iconic features of their house. His eyes, though, betrayed a flicker of discontent, a sentiment that Rhaenyra understood all too well. In a world defined by dragons, beauty, and Valyrian heritage, Aemon often found himself standing apart from the traditional Targaryen image.

Rhaenyra's grasp on Aemon's hand was both a physical and emotional anchor, a silent assurance that, regardless of appearances, he belonged to this storied family. Aemon's brooding disposition and the weight of not having a dragon nor the quintessential Targaryen looks were challenges he carried. Rhaenyra, even in her youth, discerned the sadness that clung to Aemon, and her innate empathy spurred her to offer support.

Yet, despite Aemon's perceived differences, Rhaenyra proudly claimed him as her cousin and closest companion. In the face of Targaryen expectations, Rhaenyra's unwavering loyalty and familial bond were beacons of solace for Aemon, dispelling the shadows that sought to cast him adrift from his own blood.

Aemon, with the confidence befitting his name, turned to Septa Myrcella. "Good day, Septa. I was resting by the heart tree when I felt the sudden urge to come to see the lesson for myself," he declared, his eyes glinting mischievously.

The Septa, skeptical yet wary of opposing a Targaryen prince, offered a begrudging welcome to Aemon and Lady Alicent. The princesses, observing the unfolding scene, exchanged glances that conveyed both surprise and curiosity. "You are always welcome, your grace. Prince Aemon, your presence is an honor. If you wish to observe, you are more than welcome."

Aemon nodded his head in appreciation and smiled towards the elder woman. "Thank you, Septa. As luck would have it, I felt an urge to witness the lessons firsthand, and Lady Rhaenyra here was kind enough to guide me."

The Septa, addressing Rhaenyra with a stern gaze, warned. The unspoken understanding hung in the air—Rhaenyra's attempts to evade lessons were known to both Septa and the students. "Is that so? Well, Princess Rhaenyra, while I appreciate your enthusiasm for learning, you must adhere to your scheduled lessons. One more deviation, and I'll be forced to inform your parents."

As Rhaenyra stood before Septa Myrcella, a defiant resolve in her eyes, she declared, "I will not leave again." The Septa, though skeptical, nodded, acknowledging the unspoken promise.

Observing the exchange, Lady Alicent found herself at the center of attention. Septa Myrcella, with an inviting smile, extended an offer. "Would you care to join the sowing circle, Lady Alicent? The princes seem to have an affinity for it."

Lady Alicent, glancing towards the princesses, assessed the situation. With a polite nod, she agreed, "I would be delighted, Septa."

As the circle expanded to include the Lady, Princess Saera initiated a conversation that wove through the topics of boys and court gossip. Viserra, Aerea, Rhaella, Daenerys, and Maegelle joined in, sharing tidbits of intrigue and speculation from the corridors of the Red Keep.

Saera, with a playful glint in her eyes, addressed her sister. "Viserra, have you heard the latest about Lord Blackwood's son? They say he's been courting the daughter of Lord Bracken."

Viserra, ever the confident one, leaned in, her curiosity piqued. "Is it true love or just another alliance in the making?"

Aemon fought back the laugh at the idea of a Bracken and a Blackwood courting one another. He thought there was more chance for the mounts to blow in the wind or for all the seas to dry up like the desserts in Dorne. No, Brackens and Blackwoods hated each other more than cats and dogs. Never had there been more proof than Bittersteel and Bloodraven, half-brother children of Aegon the Unworthy, but the parts of them that shared their mother's blood ran so thick and hot that the pair could not stomach one another and were the driving forces for the most of the battles of Blackfyre Rebellions. But Aemon supposed that he would not see any of this happen; if he had his way, the black dragons would never rise and would never keep house Targaryen crippled long enough for Robert to deliver the final blow. Either Saera was trying to make a rumor, or whoever she had heard this from was lying to the new princess of the Red Keep. Aemon would find it historical to imagine a Bracken and Blackwood being in the same room without drawing swords; he doubted even the gods thought it possible for the two families to get along enough for a courtship.

As the gossip unfolded, Rhaenyra, known for her spirited nature, couldn't resist joining in. "And what about the squires? I heard Ser Steffon Harlaw has been showing quite the prowess in the training yards. Perhaps he aims to catch the eye of a certain lady."

Lady Alicent, attempting to absorb the intricate web of courtly conversations, listened intently. As the princesses continued their exchange, discussing the comings and goings of the court and the intrigues of the Red Keep, Lady Alicent found herself caught in the whirlwind of courtly gossip, sowing the seeds of camaraderie among the Targaryen children and their Hightower guest.

Lady Alicent, immersed in the courtly discussions of knights and squires, found herself intrigued by the mention of the young aspirants. As the princesses shared their perspectives, Lady Alicent asked, "Who among them is the best, then?"

Viserra, with a confident demeanor, named several squires who showed promise and potential. Rhaenyra, however, offered a dissenting view. "Most of them aren't that special," she remarked, her discerning gaze sweeping across the yard. To her, the squires seemed ordinary, lacking the spark that might set them apart.

Maegelle, with her gentle nature, shared a different perspective. "Some of them are kind. They've helped me around the keep sometimes," she offered her words highlighting the camaraderie that existed within the Red Keep.

Rhaella, ever the dreamer, spoke of the potential for legends. "Perhaps some of them might end up becoming worthy of songs and poems," she mused, her eyes filled with a hopeful gleam.

Intrigued by the discussion, Lady Alicent inquired, "Who would you say is the most capable squire?" Without a moment's hesitation, the princesses all turned their attention to Aemon, who rested against the wall, fingers gracefully dancing over his harp. Aemon was listening but barely paying attention. "Prince Aemon? But he is not old enough to be a page, let alone squire. How could he best them?"

Rhaenyra, wearing a proud smile, stepped forward to defend her cousin. "Aemon can beat boys twice his age and thrice his size," she proclaimed, her voice exuding confidence. The other princesses chimed in, each contributing their own observation.

Aerea, with a bashful smile, admitted, "Aemon hasn't lost a fight with another squire yet." Daenerys, excitement in her voice, shared her own witness to Aemon's prowess. "I saw Aemon's fight before, and he's really good. Some say he's too good for a boy his age."

Aemon, with the ethereal strains of his harp lingering in the air, found himself lost in a realm of contemplation that transcended the lively chatter of his cousins. As his fingers deftly moved across the strings, weaving a delicate melody, his thoughts were elsewhere, anchored in a profound understanding that stretched far beyond the walls of the Red Keep.

In his musings, Aemon grappled with the realization that during the era of Jon Snow, the Targaryens were oblivious to the ancient prophecy, the dire warning passed down since the inception of their house. The weight of this knowledge settled upon Aemon's shoulders, and his mind raced with thoughts of what needed to be done to confront the impending darkness.

Aemon, his fingers caressing the strings of his harp, was entangled in the threads of prophecy that whispered through the corridors of time. The words echoed in his mind, "From my blood, come The Prince That Was Promised, and his will be the Song of Ice and Fire." Aemon pondered these ancient words, the weight of their meaning pressing upon his Targaryen soul.

To him, the prophecy held a sacred truth—a Targaryen was destined to be the Promised Prince, the harbinger who would stand against the encroaching darkness of the Long Night. Aemon's thoughts drifted to a different lifetime, to his existence as Jon Snow. In that other life, Jon Snow had faced the Long Night and emerged victorious, yet the victory had come at a heavy cost—the world itself had perished in the aftermath of the war.

The intricacies of the prophecy played out in Aemon's mind like a haunting melody. He contemplated the notion that, according to the prophecy, Jon Snow was not just a chance occurrence but a predetermined destiny. Jon Snow, born into the Targaryen bloodline, was the manifestation of the Song of Ice and Fire—a symphony that resonated with the elements of both ice and fire.

As he traced the contours of the harp strings, Aemon contemplated the temporal dissonance between his current life and the future known to Jon Snow. Events unfolded differently, timelines diverged, and the resonance between the past and the future seemed elusive. Yet, the prophecy remained a constant, an immutable truth that transcended the intricacies of temporal intricacies.

The question loomed in Aemon's mind, an unspoken query echoing through the chambers of his thoughts. Did his early rebirth signify an accelerated arrival of the Long Night? Was the darkness encroaching upon the realm sooner than anticipated? The answers remained elusive, veiled in the shadows of the unknown. Undeterred by the uncertainties that lingered in the air, Aemon resolved to prepare for the Long Night, regardless of its temporal nuances.

As Aemon's fingers continued to dance across the harp strings, his thoughts converged on the daunting task that lay ahead—the need to prepare Westeros for the impending Long Night. In the echoes of Jon Snow's memories, he remembered the struggles of a weakened realm beset by the forces of darkness and the valiant efforts that narrowly averted catastrophe.

In Jon Snow's time, Westeros had rallied against the Long Night with meager forces—a hundred thousand Dothraki, six thousand Unsullied, a scattering of Iron Islanders, and a combined force of thirty thousand Northmen and Vale men. These armies, once a formidable strength, were decimated, their ranks diminished by the relentless onslaught of the undead. The survival of Westeros hinged on Arya's decisive act, slaying the Night King and halting the relentless advance of the undead.

However, by the time of the Night King's resurgence, Westeros found itself in a weakened state. Armies were shattered and scattered, and the once-united front had crumbled. Essos, a crucial ally in the first Long

The first struggle had brought a glimmer of hope, a chance for humanity to rebuild and reclaim its former glory over the course of two hundred years. Yet, the opportunity was lost, and by the second Long Night, humanity stood on the precipice of inevitable defeat.

Aemon, burdened by the weight of his newfound knowledge, recognized the urgency of the situation. Without the dragons that had played a pivotal role in the first Long Night, Westeros faced an even graver threat. If he did not act, the realm stood little chance of survival.

As Aemon's fingers gracefully swept across the harp strings, the haunting melody that emanated carried the weight of his contemplations—a sad and mournful tone reflective of the somber thoughts that consumed him. Unbeknownst to Aemon, the emotional undercurrents of his playing mirrored the gravity of the task at hand—the preparation for the imminent Long Night.

In the recesses of his mind, Aemon grappled with the strategic considerations that loomed before him. House Targaryen, the linchpin in the battle against the encroaching darkness, needed to be fortified. Resources, both material and human, required consolidation, and the unity of all Seven Kingdoms was paramount for the survival of Westeros.

The shadow of Dorne, a region that had eluded the grasp of the Targaryens for centuries, lingered in Aemon's thoughts. Dorne needed to be integrated into the fold of the Seven Kingdoms to face the impending threat, a task that demanded swifter action than history had allowed. Aemon, drawing on the knowledge of the historical tapestry that wove through his consciousness, recalled the conquest of Dorne by Daeron the Young Dragon—a conquest that proved costly in lives and resources. Daeron, the Young Dragon, conquered Dorne with ten thousand men within a year, but it is said he lost four times that number within the three or four years he held Dorne.

Daeron's ill-fated endeavor, marked by the loss of tens of thousands, served as a cautionary tale. The Targaryens had faced setbacks, with Daeron ultimately losing his life and Dorne slipping from their grasp. The toll exacted by the failed conquest echoed through the corridors of history, leaving Aemon with the realization that a different approach was needed. Daeron's conquest, while a stroke of genius, eventually amounted to nothing as Dorne returned to independence until the Martells and Targaryens married one another.

As Aemon's harp continued to weave its melancholic melody, his mind traversed the vast expanse of Westeros and Essos—a realization dawned upon him. While the unity of the Seven Kingdoms was imperative, the scope of the impending conflict extended far beyond the shores of Westeros. The threat of the Long Night, once again looming on the horizon, necessitated the consolidation of power within the Seven Kingdoms and across the entirety of Essos.

In Aemon's understanding, the struggles of Westeros alone had proven insufficient against the relentless onslaught of the Night King. The lessons of Jon Snow's life echoed in his thoughts—the critical role that Essos played in tipping the balance in favor of the living. In his determination to fortify House Targaryen and prepare for the Long Night, Aemon recognized the strategic imperative of bringing Essos under Targaryen's control.

Essos, with its vast resources and armies, held the potential to be a formidable ally in the face of the encroaching darkness. Aemon, committed to ensuring the survival of humanity against the Night King's forces, envisioned a united front encompassing both Westeros and Essos. The ancient and powerful dragons stood as the linchpin in this alliance, capable of turning the tide in a conflict that transcended the boundaries of kingdoms.

The Dance of Dragons was a stepping stone—a precursor to the greater challenge that lay ahead. Aemon, resolute in his purpose, understood that the battles for power within House Targaryen were mere preludes to the overarching struggle against the Long Night. The chords of his harp resonated with a determination that transcended the present, echoing the timeless resolve to confront the darkness and emerge victorious—a destiny that stretched beyond the confines of a single lifetime.

The haunting strains of Aemon's harp were abruptly silenced by the clamor that engulfed the Red Keep. The resonant echoes of armor clashing and hurried footsteps filled the air, prompting Aemon to shift his attention from the melancholic melody to the unfolding chaos around him. Tearful eyes met his gaze, the girls in the room affected by the somber notes, but Aemon's focus remained resolute.

In the corner of the room, Ser Harrold stood with an attentive stance, armor gleaming in the dim light. Aemon turned to the seasoned knight, his eyes conveying a silent command. "Bring a lord or knight to the room," he instructed, a note of authority underscoring his words. Ser Harrold, a loyal guardian, bowed his head in acknowledgment, swiftly setting out to fulfill the prince's directive. Within moments, Ser Harrold returned with a man in tow, his face etched with urgency and concern. Aemon's gaze locked onto the newcomer, a lord or knight summoned to provide clarity amid the tumult.

The prince's voice cut through the chaos, a calm inquiry that sought to unravel the mysteries of the unfolding events. "What is happening?" Aemon questioned, his tone measured but carrying the weight of anticipation.

The man, bearing the burden of news, offered a succinct response that reverberated in the room. "Wildlings, my prince, thousands climbed over the Wall."

"That's impossible; a few hundred could climb over it, but a thousand is not possible," Ser Harrold said out loud.

"The Watch is not as great as it once was, Ser Harrold," Aemon returned. "How many are south of the Wall?"

"Fifteen thousand, my prince," the man returned.

A chill settled over the chamber as the word hung in the air. Aemon, absorbing the gravity of the situation, processed the implications of the Wildlings breaching the defenses of the realm. His mind raced, contemplating the strategic considerations and the impending threat that now bore down upon the Red Keep. The Dance of Dragons, once the primary focus of his thoughts, was momentarily eclipsed by the immediate challenge at hand.

South of the Wall

??? 102 AC

In the icy hinterlands of the North, below the looming expanse just south of the Wall, two figures walked through a small village in the unforgiving grip of the cold summer. A young lad with a mane of brown hair and eyes as dark as the shadows that clung to the frigid air ambled alongside his burly father. The man was tall and large, with a balding hard and thick unruly blackened beard, by his side a sword and axe, while his son wore a bow that hung from his shoulders alongside the quiver. The frigid air bit at their faces as the man bore the weight of a massive elk, its antlers scraping against the hardened snow. His frame, formidable and clad in furs, spoke of years weathered in the harsh wilderness.

The elder, a burly figure with a bald head but adorned with a sprawling black beard that seemed to defy the chill, exchanged banter with his progeny. Their breaths hung in the cold air like ethereal whispers as they traversed a modest hamlet crafted from timber. The village, a testament to survival against the relentless winter, stood nestled amid the desolation of the North.

The boy's countenance bore a radiant grin, illuminated by the warmth of his father's jests. As they passed through the settlement, the children of the North frolicked in the snow, their youthful laughter echoing in the crisp silence. Men, sinewy and resolute, toiled to fulfill the necessities of the community, kindling fires and attending to tasks essential for sustenance.

Amidst the swirling flakes, the women of the village diligently prepared, readying clothing and concocting a hearty stew in anticipation of the successful hunt. The aroma of simmering broth mingled with the biting cold, weaving a tapestry of life amid the unforgiving wilderness. In this secluded corner of Westeros, where summer too bore the burden of snow, the interplay of life and survival unfolded, an unending saga etched into the fabric of the North.

The father's weathered face, etched with the lines of countless winters, remained stoic as he recounted a tale from his youth, a time when the cold winds hadn't yet claimed his hair. A flicker of mirth danced in his eyes, hidden beneath the veneer of his rugged demeanor. He spoke with a deep, resonant voice that carried the weight of both laughter and hardship.

"Despite what our mother told us, we did not listen to our father. Now, lad, your uncle and I went hunting; our father told us that if we didn't return with an elk as big as Winterfell, he would clip us behind the ears with blood sausage," he began, his words punctuated by the crunching of snow beneath their boots. The boy's eyes widened with anticipation as the village scenery unfolded around them. "We were after an elk, but it did not end that way."

"Uncle Theon told me that he called you a coward. He said it was easy killing an elk," his son returned with glee.

"He told you that, did he? The ass. It was the other way around, boy. Your uncle pissed his pants at the idea of fighting a direwolf, so we settled for an elk. A beast as big as the Wall itself—or so the tales would have you believe. Your uncle, bless his soul, insisted he could mimic a wolf's howl better than any man alive. So there we were, deep in the woods, the night so dark it could swallow your fear whole." The father's voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper as though he shared a secret only with his wide-eyed son. "Your uncle, he let out a howl that would wake the dead, and we waited, breaths held like a winter's frost. The forest fell silent, and just when we thought nothing would happen, the bushes rustled, and out came a rabbit, scampering like it owed the gods a debt." The boy burst into laughter, the sound echoing through the snowy expanse. The father's small smile widened imperceptibly, a fleeting moment of warmth in the frozen landscape. "Yes, lad, your uncle and I, brave hunters we were, scared off a dire wolf with a howl meant for rabbits."

A sudden hush fell over the village, shattered by the ominous whistle of an arrow slicing through the frigid air. The father's instincts kicked in, and with a reflex honed by years in the harsh North, he dropped the elk without a second thought. The serene scene shattered as the arrow found its mark, cruelly piercing the air and extinguishing the life of a woman tending to her child.

The father's eyes, once filled with the warmth of shared laughter, now blazed with a fierce determination. He pivoted swiftly, his burly form facing the origin of the deadly projectile. There, atop a snowy knoll, stood a woman draped in furs and tatters, her fiery mane betraying her identity as a Wildling.

The father's weathered features contorted with a mix of grief and fury. He bellowed a guttural command to his son, a primal instinct to protect in the face of impending danger. "Hide, boy! Now!"

As the village was plunged into pandemonium, a figure emerged from the wilderness – a golden-haired woman draped in tattered furs, a harbinger of chaos. Her eyes bore the wildness of the free folk beyond the Wall, and with a twisted grin, she notched another arrow. A Wildling, a force unseen for generations in these parts, now descended upon the unsuspecting village.

"Defend the village!" roared the father, rallying the few able-bodied men who scrambled to arm themselves against the impending onslaught. His massive frame, a fortress against the encroaching horde, wielded both axe and sword, a testament to a lifetime spent in the harsh embrace of the North.

Over the snowy hill, a horde of three hundred Wildlings surged like a tidal wave, their intentions unknown but undoubtedly dire. The small, wall-less village became a battleground as the defenders, outnumbered and unprepared, stood resolute against the impending onslaught.

The father, a bulwark of determination, positioned himself at the forefront, ready to face the Wildlings with a ferocity born of necessity. In the cold, unforgiving land near the Wall, where the whims of fate could turn as swiftly as the wind, a struggle for survival unfolded amid the swirling snowflakes.

The father, a tempest of fury unleashed, swung his weapons with a lethal precision honed by years of survival in the unforgiving North. The first Wildling fell swiftly, a clean stroke severing the head from the shoulders. In a seamless transition, he intercepted the sword of the second assailant with his axe, the clash of metal ringing through the snowy air. A swift kick sent the Wildling sprawling onto the icy ground, vulnerable and disoriented. The father's axe, raised high, descended with a merciless force, ending the threat with a sickening crunch.

But the battle unfolded in a relentless cadence, a deadly dance where the odds tipped against the lone defender. The father, a force to be reckoned with, carved through the chaos, his weapons a blur of death. Each swing found its mark, yet for every fallen adversary, two more emerged from the frigid shadows.

The Wildlings, undeterred by the prowess of the solitary defender, closed in like a ravenous pack. Swords clashed, axes hewed, and the snow beneath their feet was stained with the crimson testament of the struggle. The father fought admirably, a bastion of resistance against the encroaching tide, but the sheer number of adversaries proved insurmountable.

As the battle raged, the father became entangled in the swirling melee. Blades clashed against his armor, and bruises blossomed beneath the furs that once offered warmth. The relentless onslaught began to wear him down, his movements slowing against the ceaseless barrage. The once stoic face now bore the etchings of pain and exhaustion, a testament to the harsh reality of outnumbered defiance.

Yet, even as he fought valiantly against the overwhelming odds, the outcome of the battle seemed inevitable. The father, surrounded by a sea of hostile faces, stood defiant but increasingly vulnerable. The North, notorious for its brutality, now witnessed the clash of survival against an indomitable force. The fate of the wooden village hung in the balance, and the father, though resilient, faced the stark reality of being overpowered by the relentless horde of Wildlings.

The once defiant father fought with an unyielding ferocity, each swing of his weapons a desperate attempt to stem the tide of carnage unfolding around him. Yet, the brutality of the Wildlings knew no bounds, and as the battle descended into a nightmarish frenzy, the village became a scene of unspeakable horror.

The father's heart sank as the cries of the innocent echoed through the icy air. Women and children, defenseless in the face of the marauding horde, fell victim to the merciless onslaught. The Wildlings, fueled by primal savagery, spared none in their ruthless rampage. The very essence of the North, a realm known for its harshness, now bore witness to an atrocity that transcended the harshest winters.

Women endured unspeakable horrors, and the cries of violated innocence pierced the frigid air, f*cked and rapped before their children. Babies, symbols of life and hope, met cruel fates as their heads were callously dashed against unforgiving rocks. Though fighting with the strength of a desperate heart, the father couldn't prevent the desolation that unfolded before his eyes.

The father, a witness to the unspeakable horrors unfolding before him, could only watch in agonized despair as his son, fueled by a desperate courage, rushed to defend his mother. The air hung heavy with the stench of blood and the haunting echoes of brutality. His son, armed with naught but a bow, unleashed an arrow that found its mark, severing the life of a Wildling in a single, decisive stroke.

But the fleeting victory was swallowed by the relentless onslaught. The boy's mother, a pillar of strength, fell victim to the merciless blades of the invaders. The father's anguished screams reverberated through the chaos as he witnessed the life being extinguished from those he held dearest.

Encircled by the encroaching darkness, his son fought valiantly against insurmountable odds. Yet, in the grim dance of violence, five Wildlings closed in, overwhelming the young defender. The clamor of the merciless siege swallowed the clash of weapons and the boy's desperate struggles.

The father, his soul torn asunder, bellowed in a primal scream of grief and fury. His son, his blood, and the woman he loved lay broken and lifeless before him. The once stoic facade shattered, leaving behind a man consumed by the anguish of an irreparable loss.

In the heart of the North, where winter's grasp held the land in a relentless vice, the village succumbed to the brutality of the Wildlings. The father, now bereft of all he held dear, stood amidst the wreckage, a lone figure against the backdrop of a tragic tale etched in the unforgiving snow.

The man's primal scream, a symphony of grief and rage, echoed through the snowy expanse as he descended into a maelstrom of violence. His movements, fueled by a desperate determination, were a savage ballet of death amid the chaos of the wooden village. The air crackled with the relentless clash of weapons and the anguished cries of the fallen.

With a furious swing of his axe, the man cleaved through the first Wildling, the weapon biting into flesh and bone with a sickening thud. His sword danced in tandem, a deadly partner in the macabre waltz, as he stabbed and slashed with an unwavering resolve. The frozen ground beneath him bore witness to the crimson tapestry painted by his relentless onslaught.

Like a venomous serpent, an arrow found its mark in the man's arm. A scream of pain tore through the air, but he pressed on, the injury becoming but a distant echo amid the symphony of violence. The grief that fueled his wrath transformed him into a force of nature, a juggernaut carving a path through the encroaching darkness.

He dodged a wild slash from a Wildling and retaliated with a swift and brutal counter. The man's sword sliced through the air, and with a single stroke, he cleaved his assailant in twain. The dance of death continued each movement a manifestation of the fury that coursed through him.

However, the relentless onslaught took its toll. Arrows, like harbingers of fate, struck the man a second and then a third time. The wounds, though numerous, failed to quench the fire within him. He cut down six more Wildlings in a desperate bid to stave off the inevitable.

But as the cacophony of battle raged on, the numbers proved insurmountable. The man, battered and bloodied, succumbed to the overwhelming force of the Wildlings. They closed in, their blades finding purchase in his flesh. The once indomitable defender, now surrounded by the very darkness he sought to repel, fell to the unforgiving ground.

The man, held down by the sinewy grip of a Wildling, felt the cold press of the arrow embedded in his flesh. A silent agony etched across his face as the Wildling, an embodiment of the brutal North, pointed to the man's son and wife with a cruel sneer.

With a cruel glint in his eyes, the Wildling pointed toward the pair and barked, "Are these your kin? Your flesh and blood?" The man, his jaw clenched, remained silent, his gaze a defiant silence. His eyes ablaze with fury and despair, the man remained resolute and said nothing. The Wildling, undeterred, twisted the arrow deeper, extracting a muted groan from the captive. "Cat got your tongue, eh? Well, let's see if pain can loosen it." The man, gritting his teeth against the searing pain, met the Wildling's gaze with a steely silence. The Wildling, unfazed by the stoic defiance, continued his cruel inquiry. "Are they your family?" Tears streaming down his face, the man nodded in a begrudging acknowledgment. The Wildling, reveling in the man's anguish, spoke with a sad*stic glee. "I'm thinking of having a bit of fun. Maybe a roast with some Crow meat afterward. Start with the child, then the mother."

A surge of anger and desperation flashed in the man's eyes, a silent plea for mercy that went unanswered. The Wildling, reveling in the cruel power dynamics, pressed further. The man struggled under the weight of the Wildling man holding him down.

"f*ck you and your whor* mother," the man grunted out as blood came from his mouth.

"You know where Castle Black is, don't you?" the Wildling asked as he played with the arrow and put as much pressure as he could. "Good. You'll go to your precious Night's Watch, the Crows, and tell them what happened here today. You'll tell them that the Free Folk are not to be trifled with." The Wildling released his hold on the man, who, now free but battered, clutched his wounds with a grim determination. "Fail to do that, and I'll hunt you down and force feed you your child and wife before cutting you open and ear out y liver. There's no escaping the wrath of the Free Folk."

As the man, a broken yet defiant figure, staggered to his feet, the Wildling's laughter echoed through the desolate landscape, a grim reminder of the choices forced upon those who tread the unforgiving paths of the North. The man staggered with three arrows in him; he staggered towards the Night's Watch.

Chapter 10: To the North

Summary:

King Jaehaerys holds a small council meeting in regard to the wildlings. Prince Aemon is angered by the results and takes matters into his own hands.

Chapter Text

Aemon Targaryen/ Jon Snow

Red Keep 102 AC

The small council chamber was fraught with tension, the weight of urgent matters pressing upon the gathered assembly. The small council chamber echoed with the muted sounds of deliberation as Aemon moved gracefully among the attendees, the rich aroma of wine lingering in the air. King Jaehaerys Targaryen presided over the gathering at the head of the ornate table. The matters at hand were grave, the urgency in the room palpable as the council convened to address the pressing issue of the Wildlings encroaching upon the Wall.

Seated around the table were the key figures of the small council, each with their sphere of influence and expertise. Lord Otto Hightower's furrowed brow and stern countenance mirrored the weight of responsibility on his shoulders. Aemon noticed that Lord Otto had yet to come up with any decisive information to aid the North.

To his right sat the recently appointed Grand Maester Runciter, his chain of office clinking softly as he shifted in his seat. The man was old and near death, it took much time to become a maester, and even more to be any maester of note worth becoming the grand maester of the Red Keep. Aemon did not think the man would live another decade. Prince Viserys Targaryen had sat there but did more listening than speaking.

The Master of Coin, Lord Lyman Beesbury's calculating gaze was assessing the potential financial strains on the realm. Across the table, the ever-dutiful Corlys Velaryon undoubtedly strategizing the best approach to secure the coastlines.

At the side of the table, Ser Ryam Redwyne, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, presented a formidable presence, his white cloak flowing regally as he listened intently to the unfolding discussions. The small council, a confluence of minds and expertise, wrestled with the complex challenges posed by the Wildling threat.

The tension in the small council chamber thickened as the dire situation Beyond the Wall took center stage in the discussion. King Jaehaerys Targaryen, his countenance a mix of restrained anger and composed authority, addressed the gathering with a question that hung heavy in the air.

"How many Wildlings have crossed the Wall?" the King inquired, the calmness of his voice belying the underlying intensity.

Maester Runciter, a chain of office glinting in the dim light, began to share the grim reports. "Conflicting claims persist, Your Grace," he admitted, the weight of uncertainty evident in his tone. "Some say fifteen thousand men south of the Wall. Most estimates agree it is over twenty thousand."

Lord Corlys Velaryon, Master of Ships, interjected with a pragmatic assessment of the North's military capabilities. "The North has over forty thousand men, Your Grace. They have more than twice the force to repel the invaders," he asserted, his gaze unwavering.

However, Maester Runciter countered with a sobering reality that transcended mere numbers. "Even with superior numbers, the Wildlings are wreaking havoc. They show no strategic pattern, destroying and burning villages and crop fields with reckless abandon. They're using fire as a weapon, setting the entire North ablaze." he explained, emphasizing the chaos unleashed by the invaders.

Lord Lyman Beesbury, Master of Coin, voiced concern about the economic toll of the devastation. "The North's resources are being systematically razed. We should provide aid to protect our investments and stabilize the region," he suggested his focus on the broader repercussions of the Wildlings' rampage.

King Jaehaerys leaned forward, his eyes narrowing with a mix of frustration and concern. "How did the Night's Watch allow the Wildlings to breach the Wall?" he demanded, directing his question at the maester who held the realm's knowledge.

Maester Runciter responded with a grave expression, "The Wildlings climbed the far west side of the Wall. Once over the western portion of the Wall, they began traversing eastward, leaving destruction in their wake."

Prince Viserys, ever direct, sought answers. "Why has the North not planned a counterattack yet? This is an invasion; they should be ready to defend their lands," he asserted, challenging the apparent lack of proactive measures from the Northern lords.

Lord Otto Hightower, Hand of the King, offered a pragmatic perspective. "The Wildlings are attacking indiscriminately. They give the North no time to consolidate their forces for an organized counterattack. It's chaos, Your Grace," he explained, acknowledging the severity of the situation.

King Jaehaerys, his brow furrowed in contemplation, turned to the council for insight. "What is the Night's Watch planning to do? We cannot leave the North to face this threat alone," he stated firmly, seeking a decisive course of action.

Maester Runciter coughed and hacked as he breathed and tried to speak, his older age catching up to him as he was old even before becoming a maester,. "Your Grace, the Night's Watch is currently engaged in fierce battles to the North. They are overstretched and cannot divert resources to face the Wildlings who have made it south," he reported, his voice laden with concern.

Lord Lyman Beesbury leaned forward, his brow furrowed. "How did the Night's Watch allow so many Wildlings to breach the Wall? Even if the Wildings came from the west, over two thousand men were sent to the Wall after most keep in the realm emptied their dungeons. Surely, they knew their duty was to protect the realm."

Maester Runciter interjected, "The Night's Watch faces internal strife. Some brothers, disillusioned and rebellious, have fled the Wall. They are beyond our reach, camped beyond the Wall, further complicating the situation. Nearly five hundred are beyond the Wall after the few rebellions and mutinies that had taken place."

Prince Viserys, his impatience evident, spoke up, "So, because of a few rebellions and deserters, we are to leave the North to face this threat alone? Unacceptable."

Lord Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, countered, "We cannot ignore the reality, Your Grace. The Night's Watch is crippled by internal conflicts. Sending reinforcements might not be enough to turn the tide."

King Jaehaerys, his brow furrowed, addressed the council. "What is the likelihood of calling the other lords to muster their forces and march north to aid the North against the Wildlings?" he inquired. He then turned to the Lord Commander, making it clear who the question was for.

Lord Commander Ryam Redwyne, his white cloak billowing, spoke with a solemn tone. "Your Grace, a royal procession alone would take a month to reach Winterfell. Assembling the armies of the realm would consume a better part of two months. If everything went perfectly—no days to rest, sufficient food, favorable weather, and no unforeseen challenges—it would still take nearly five months more to march the entire force north. And that's only to Winterfell; the Wall lies even further north."

The men continued to argue and debate on what actions needed to be taken. Aemon looked to Lord Hightower; Aemon knew in his heart the Lord Hand was not adding any beneficial information because the North was allied with Aemon, and in turn, Daemon weakening the North meant weakening Daemon. They continued to argue, but most of the information circled and agreed with one another, save for the fact that none of the information went to aiding the North but more so of the fact that the North needed aid, to begin with, and that the Crown must supply it. If the Crown did not aid the North in a time of peril, it would showcase a dangerous president that the Crown would let the realms suffer if the danger was only for one kingdom. Aemon hated all of it. He may have been weak in the ways of politics, but he knew how to fight, and the North needed people to fight.

Maester Runciter, with a sense of urgency, added to the grim assessment. "Your Grace, with the current pace of the Wildlings' advance from beyond the Wall coming south, they would reach the Wall well before any significant support could arrive. The North would be left to face an onslaught of nearly a hundred thousand Wildlings with no hope of reprieve."

King Jaehaerys absorbed the dire information, his mind racing to find a solution. "So, by the time our armies reach the North, the damage would already be done," he remarked with a heavy sigh.

As the debate continued, Viserys, his brows furrowed, raised a pertinent question. "Why can't the Tullys or Arryns send their troops to aid the North? They are the closest and could provide swift support."

Lord Otto Hightower, maintaining his composed demeanor, responded, " "The Arryns are currently dealing with a delicate situation in the Vale. A number of Stone Crows have been causing unrest, and the deaths of Lady Jeyne Arryn's father and elder brothers years ago, have not quelled the Stone Crows' bloodlust. Sending troops from the Vale could worsen the situation rather than improve it." He continued, "As for the Tullys, their relations with the Starks have been strained since Prince Daemon and Princess Lyanna. The incident where they ran away together, breaking Lyanna's betrothal to House Tully, has left a lingering bitterness. It may not be wise to rely on the Tullys for immediate aid."

"Enough of this bickering," Aemon proclaimed, his voice resonating through the chamber. The young prince spoke with a clarity and conviction that demanded attention. There was no anger or rage; it was more akin to tiredness, tiredness of politics, and a need for action. "The longer we argue, the less time the North has to survive. Winter is coming, and it does not wait for men to prepare. Those who don't prepare will freeze and starve." He turned his gaze toward King Jaehaerys, addressing him directly, "Your Grace, you have dragons and riders. Send them to end this before it spirals out of control."

Lord Otto Hightower, feigning kindness, retorted, "Prince Aemon, the affairs of the realm are more complicated than a boy's understanding."

Aemon, unyielding, responded, "If I am a child, then I know how children argue. The small council is doing just that when we should be executing results, not merely reacting. When a building is on fire, one doesn't fix it by pointing it out; they fix it by pouring water on the flames."

King Jaehaerys looked at Aemon with a solemn expression. "Aemon, my boy, I have no dragons to send forth. I am too old to make such a journey on dragon's back, and Viserys must stay behind to guard the city. There should always be a dragon rider in King's Landing, and he needs to learn how to rule from me. Your father, Prince Daemon, is holding his position against a possible Dornish invasion. As for your cousin and aunts – Viserra, Aerea, Rhaella, Daenerys, Saera, Rhaenyra, and Maegella – they are too young for such battles, and their dragons are not yet old enough for such a fight. We have no dragon riders available to handle the situation and fly to the North in time to aid them."

As the small council continued their heated debate, the realization of the limited options available became increasingly apparent. Each suggestion was scrutinized, debated, and often dismissed. The urgency of the situation clashed with the logistical challenges of mobilizing a force to the North.

The king acknowledged the practical challenges, understanding that it would take months for the Crown's forces to reach the North. Nevertheless, the message conveyed in those letters was clear – the Crown would not tolerate any threat to the stability of the realm. Whether it was to save the North or avenge its fall, the Seven Kingdoms would unite against the common enemy. The room, though still tense, acquiesced to this decision, recognizing it as the best available option given the circ*mstances.

Aemon's frustration simmered beneath the surface as the discussions in the small council unfolded like a convoluted tapestry. The reality of inaction gnawed at him, a stark contrast to the urgency that the situation demanded. His mind, a labyrinth of thoughts and reflections, delved into the intricacies of the predicament.

The Wildlings, a hardy and resilient people, were driven by necessity. Their harsh lives beyond the Wall had forged a survival instinct that surpassed the boundaries of kingdoms and politics. Aemon pondered the motivations that had propelled them to march south, challenging the imposing barrier of the Wall. Was it desperation, an attempt to secure resources for the impending winter, or was there a more sinister force guiding their actions?

Amidst the political maneuvering and debates, Aemon felt a deeper, more personal connection to the looming danger. His thoughts traversed the corridors of time, drawing parallels between his current life and the one he had led as Jon Snow. The weight of responsibility pressed upon him, a burden he carried with the knowledge that the destiny of the realm rested on the decisions made in these tense council chambers.

The room echoed with the clashes of opinions, but Aemon's mind delved into the core of the matter. The Wildlings, driven by primal instincts and a relentless pursuit of survival, were a force to be reckoned with. The Night King's army, an amalgamation of generations, threatened to plunge the North into chaos and destruction. Aemon, fueled by a resolute determination, vowed silently to confront this menace head-on, armed with the wisdom of a past life and the weight of a future unknown.

The Wildlings, a formidable force numbering a hundred thousand, possessed the strength to overwhelm the Night's Watch and seize the Wall. The logical progression of their advance should have seen them battering at the gates of Castle Black, yet the eerie calm persisted. Aemon questioned the motives behind this apparent restraint. Was it a tactical decision, a diversion, or did an unforeseen force govern the Wildlings' actions?

The uncertainty clawed at Aemon's thoughts, a disquieting presence that fueled his relentless search for answers. The Wildlings, driven by survival instincts, had shown a penchant for chaos and destruction in their southward march. The absence of an immediate assault on the Wall confounded the conventional expectations of warfare.

Aemon's contemplations traversed the spectrum of possibilities – a hidden agenda, a leader's indecision, or perhaps a force beyond the realm of mortal understanding at play. The mysteries of the far North, where ancient magic and forgotten truths lay dormant, cast a long shadow over the unfolding events.

The Wildlings' decision to withhold their full force from assaulting the Wall presented a conundrum. Their knowledge of the North and the Night's Watch, like a two-edged sword, cut both ways. A lack of recent encounters had shrouded the Wildlings' understanding of the Wall's defenses, just as the Night's Watch remained unaware of the formidable army assembling in the far North. The Wildlings did not have a King Beyond the Wall at some time, and without a King Beyond the Wall, there would never have been a Wilding army capable of fighting the entire North. Due to the Night's Watch and the Wildings not having a true war against one another in some time, neither fully understood how much the other force had in number. If the Wildings knew how many Night's Watchmen there, nearly six thousand, then the Wildings would have rushed and attacked the Wall already.

After two hours of intense discussion, it became evident that no consensus could be reached on an immediate, effective course of action. Despite the lack of a concrete plan, King Jaehaerys made a decision. Letters were to be written and sent to every lord in the Seven Kingdoms, urgently informing them of the threat beyond the Wall. They were instructed to ready their men for a march, as a demonstration of the Crown's commitment to defend the realm.

Alone, in his chambers, at night, Aemon pondered the Wildlings' strategy – a strategic dance with the unknown, a gambit where the element of surprise held considerable weight. The wild expanses beyond the Wall harbored ancient secrets, and the Wildlings, under a yet unknown leadership, chose when and where to unveil their strength.

The recurrence of a divided Wildling force – a vanguard to the south while the main host approached from the north – whispered of a tactical acumen that struck a chord within Aemon's memories. It resembled a tactic he had once encountered, a maneuver that had left an indelible mark on Aemon, or rather, Jon Snow.

As the fragments of recollection danced in the recesses of Aemon's thoughts, the answer lingered just beyond his grasp. The complexity of the Wildlings' approach mirrored a past encounter, his encounter with them as Jon Snow, an eerily similar scenario that eluded the grasp of immediate recognition.

The knowledge of the Night's Watch's strength, numbering six thousand, weighed heavily on Aemon's thoughts. The current count surpassed the figures from his previous life as Jon Snow, and he couldn't shake the unsettling awareness that this time, the challenges were greater, the stakes higher.

The mutinies within the Night's Watch had sown discord, reaping a grim harvest of five hundred lives lost in brutal battles. Another five hundred had managed to escape, seeking refuge in a ramshackle fortress that would eventually evolve into the notorious Craster's Keep. Aemon's understanding of the North's intricate web of events, past and present, informed him of the make-shift defenses erected by these deserters.

The five hundred deserters refortified the keep with ditches and wooden walls to hold off from invasion, from what the scouts could discern. The fortified keep, now housing the renegade Night's Watchmen, stood as a symbol of defiance beyond the Wall. Craster's Keep had become a haven of outcasts, a makeshift bastion ensconced in the frozen wilderness. The wooden walls, though rudimentary, spoke of a resourcefulness born out of necessity, a desperate attempt to secure safety amidst the unforgiving landscape.

Aemon's contemplations brought forth a chilling realization. The path of the Wildling army, heading from the north to the south towards the Wall, would inevitably intersect with Craster's Keep and the renegade Night's Watchmen dwelling within. These deserters, who had managed to cause the internal strife of the Night's Watch, would reveal critical information to the approaching Wildlings.

The deserters, having knowledge of the Night's Watch's numerical strength and the manned castles along the Wall, unwittingly held a key to the Wildlings' understanding of their adversaries. If the Wildlings reached Craster's Keep, they would be privy to crucial intelligence about the Night's Watch's composition and fortifications. This knowledge, in the hands of the Wildlings, could alter their strategic approach and potentially hasten their assault on the Wall.

The Wildlings in close proximity to the deserters could expedite the timeline of their attack on the Wall. The original estimate of a month or more might be reduced to a mere week if the Wildlings, informed by the unwitting Night's Watch deserters, opted for a swifter and more aggressive approach.

Aemon's mind churned with questions and concerns as he pondered the purpose behind the initial wave of Wildlings, the vanguard of the impending invasion. Why had twenty thousand Wildlings crossed the Wall ahead of the main force? Was it a strategic maneuver to sow chaos and confusion, a deliberate attempt to distract the North and strike at the Night's Watch, which lacked the formidable defenses of the southern regions?

The implications were dire. The North, vulnerable and unprepared, would bear the brunt of the initial onslaught. The Night's Watch, lacking substantial fortifications from the south, would be vulnerable to a southern strike as it was designed after one Lord Commander tried to make himself king, and the Stark Kings brought him down and destroyed any southern walls to ensure it never happened again The vulnerable south of the Night's Watch would become a primary target for the advancing Wildlings, unleashing havoc and death in their wake. Aemon grappled with the harsh reality that the North could crumble before the other kingdoms could rally sufficient forces to mount a defense.

Understanding the urgency of the situation and driven by a sense of duty, Aemon found himself echoing the sacred vows of the Night's Watch, words that had transcended time and resonated through the ages. "Night gathers, and now my watch begins..." The solemn oath, etched into the very fabric of the Night's Watch, became a rallying cry within Aemon's heart. Without a second thought, he walked to a small bookcase that was in front of a painting of Aenys and Maegor playing as children as Aegon looked on to his sons. Aemon moved the painting ever slightly and found a small opening that was too small for a man to use but just enough for a child of six to worm into.

Navigating the labyrinthine passages with an almost instinctive familiarity, Aemon traversed the hidden corridors within the Red Keep. These clandestine pathways, remnants of Maegor the Cruel's reign, were known to few, and Aemon's knowledge of them was a testament to the secrets woven into the very foundations of the castle.

The air within the concealed passages was thick with dust, undisturbed by the casual observer for years. The narrow confines created an atmosphere of solitude, a clandestine realm insulated from the grandeur and intrigue that played out in the visible chambers of the Red Keep. Dim light filtered through the thin walls, casting feeble glimmers into the secretive passages, just enough to guide Aemon's way.

The stables were shrouded in shadows as Aemon approached, his movements silent and deliberate. The air within carried the familiar scent of hay, straw, and the musky fragrance of the horses. Aemon's chosen mount, a small black colt gifted to him by his father Daemon, stood patiently in its stall, its eyes reflecting the dim light.

Aemon's fingers traced along the smooth surface of the colt's mane, a comforting touch that conveyed both purpose and reassurance. The horse, attuned to its rider, responded with a nudge as if understanding the gravity of the moment. The young Targaryen prince, burdened by a sense of duty and urgency, moved with practiced ease as he prepared his steed for the journey that lay ahead.

He fastened a simple, well-worn saddle, its leather telling tales of previous adventures. Aemon's hands moved deftly, securing each strap with the precision of someone who had spent countless hours in the company of horses. The colt, spirited yet obedient, stood still, seemingly aware that this was no ordinary outing.

He had waited for when the gates opened, hidden away and out of the sight of the guards, for lords who had been arriving late into the night from the brothels. Once the doors opened, he rushed through and quickly made sure to lose any trace of followers by making far too many turns for any of them to follow; at one point he even made four left turns, enough to return to his same starting point and rushing down the path while any followers, which there were none, Aemon was paranoid, would be lost after following the first turn going straight. The night cloaked Aemon's movements as he swiftly made his way from the Red Keep to the Dragonpit. The rhythmic beat of his horse's hooves echoed in the empty streets, a clandestine symphony under the shroud of darkness. He rode with a purpose, the urgency of the impending threat propelling him forward.

Approaching the Dragonpit, Aemon dismounted and led his horse through the shadowed entrance, seeking the concealed path that would take him to the heart of dragon lore. The Dragonpit held a mystique that transcended time, and at night, it looked like a mass of darkness, with torches only illuminating such a small portion of the structure that it looked like only the fires glowed and that it did not showcase any of the structure save for the dark silhouette.

Navigating the dimly lit corridors of the Dragonpit, Aemon's footsteps were silent against the aged stones. His heart was beating far too quickly for his liking and yet the familiarity of such fears was a comfort in itself because fear meant he was alive, and equally as important, sane, and not yet mad like some of his future family members, Aemon did not count Maegor the Cruel as mad, because he was like Tywin Lannister and he was not considered mad. Aemon moved with the quiet determination of a sworn protector, driven not only by the immediacy of the Wildling threat but also by a sense of duty ingrained in the vows he bore.

Aemon heard a voice in his head; he had spoken too soon, and he was mad. The voice was a contradicting thing, the sound of a thousand angelic whispers and the sound rumbling from the depths of volcanoes. The ethereal guidance whispered through the corridors of the Dragonpit, the resonance of an ancient tongue weaving intricate instructions into Aemon's consciousness. The voice, resonating like the reverberations of molten earth, directed him with otherworldly wisdom, its origins embedded in the cryptic depths of high Valyrian.

Aemon, entranced and humbled by the guidance, moved with a newfound certainty. The labyrinthine passages of the Dragonpit, once a potential maze at night, espically since far too few torches were lit inside at night, now unfurled before him as a guided path. The voice steered him away from patrolling guards, concealed him in the shadows at crucial moments, and guided him toward the elusive heart of the Dragonpit.

As Aemon delved deeper, he felt an unspoken connection between his purpose and the ancient language echoing in his mind. It was as if the very stones of the Dragonpit whispered secrets of a time when dragonlords ruled the skies. The voice, a manifestation of an age long past, wove its narrative into Aemon's quest, a harmonious blend of fate and duty.

Aemon followed the voice to a familiar opening cavern, an enclave large enough to swallow the Red Keep twice over. The night sky did almost nothing to illuminate the darkness of the large opening. It was nothing but blackness and darkness; it was as though this large opening was the end itself, and Aemon was walking into the end with open arms. Aemon recalled the last time he had come to this place; it was through Vermithor's own territory, but the way he came may have been the way in which the dragon he sought out first carved and opened this large area but due to it being far too dark for human eyes to see Aemon would never know how wide of a passage the one he took was.

The cavern beneath the Dragonpit, expansive and shadowed, seemed to hold its breath as Aemon lingered in the darkened embrace. The silence hung heavy, broken only by the distant echoes of the city above. Aemon, patient and vigilant, felt the resonance of power pulsating through the very rock beneath him.

Then, as if the earth itself acknowledged his presence, a subtle vibration coursed through the cavern. The ground trembled, and Aemon sensed the stirring of something ancient, something deeply embedded in the roots of the world. The anticipation heightened, and the air crackled with latent energy.

As the tremors intensified, Aemon knew that the time had come. It was a familiar sensation, one he had felt the last time he entered the Dragonpit, under different circ*mstances. The earth responded to the ancient call, and Aemon braced himself for the revelation that awaited in the heart of the cavern.

The rhythmic cadence of colossal footfalls echoed through the cavern, a prelude to the arrival of an ancient and indomitable force. Aemon, standing in the dim illumination of the Dragonpit's depths, felt the air itself warp with the immense heat radiating from the approaching behemoth. The oppressive atmosphere seemed to thicken as Balerion the Black Dread, the embodiment of dragonfire and dread, drew near.

As the shadows coiled around the colossal dragon, its massive form began to materialize—a living obsidian monolith, an avatar of Targaryen might and power. The cavern, accustomed to the weight of its ancient resident, now quivered with the anticipation of unleashed power. So hot was the air coming from its body that the heat nearly melted stone. Aemon could barely even see the creature; the darkness of night masked Balerion like clothes do bare skin. Aemon did not know of any battles of Balerion during the night, but Aemon realized that Balerion seemed thrice as terrifying as before. At night, with no concept of his size and no clear visibility, Balerion looked like the night, the night alive, the night made flesh, the night taken form. It was as if all the night's darkness, all the missing sights were nothing but Balerion himself. One did not know where Balerion started, and the darkness ended.

Balerion's eyes, ablaze like molten rubies, bore into Aemon with a fierceness that transcended the passage of centuries. All Aemon could clearly see was the blood-red eyes of Balerion in the darkness, larger than Aemon, high into the skies, somehow glowing like the coals of a forge. The dragon's aura resonated with unrestrained wrath, a seething emotion tempest that surpassed mere beasts' realm. The sheer scale of the dragon, coupled with the intensity of its gaze, conveyed a timeless presence—a creature that had borne witness to the eons and would continue to endure.

As Aemon stood before the colossal dragon, the question hung in the air: Was he worthy of the ancient bond shared between the Targaryens and their dragons? Balerion, with eyes ablaze and wings folded, waited for the young prince to reveal his essence, to lay bare the core of his being.

Aemon, though dwarfed by the immensity of the dragon, refused to shrink beneath the weight of the scrutiny. The dragon's tooth alone was over twice the size of Aemon's entire body; the black tooth shone enough for Aemon to see himself in the reflection. If not for the torch Aemon had taken just before arriving, Aemon would have seen nothing, and in that nothing, the darkness would have consumed him. His gaze, unwavering and filled with determination, locked onto the molten eyes of Balerion. In that silent communion, Aemon conveyed a promise—an unspoken oath to uphold the legacy of House Targaryen.

The dragon rumbled, a deep and resonant sound that seemed to emanate from the very heart of the cavern. It was not a growl of hostility but a challenge for Aemon to meet. The air shimmered with latent power, a connection waiting to be forged between dragon and rider, a bond that transcended the boundaries of time and mortality.

Aemon took a step forward, his resolve unbroken. He raised his hand, and for a moment, it seemed as if the colossal beast would strike. Yet, as the seconds ticked by, a subtle shift occurred—an acknowledgment, a recognition of the Targaryen blood coursing through Aemon's veins.

Aemon took this as a sign to get closer. He took another and another. He reached his free hand to the ladder leading to the mount atop the dragon's back, more a net than a ladder, truly. Aemon grabbed the rope, took the first step upon the ladder, and ensured his footing by testing his weights twice before taking the next step. Balerion's long neck turning to allow the dragon to glimpse at Aemon as he rose higher.

The colossal maw of Balerion yawned wide, a cavernous entrance to an infernal realm. The flickering glow within signaled the imminent release of an elemental force that could incinerate armies and melt stone. But the flicker of flame made no light. Aemon had only seen it for a fraction of a second, and it was not because flames made light. No, somehow, it contradicted its own nature, and the flames took the light from everything around it; the black flames took light from a place that had almost none. Time seemed to halt for an instant—a heartbeat suspended in the silent tension of the Dragonpit.

Yet, in the face of the imminent torrent of flame, Aemon did not falter. His gaze held the fiery eyes of Balerion, an unspoken challenge returned in kind. Aemon stood on the net. This was how dragons were; one must be worthy of being their rider. The larger, more powerful, and the older the dragon, the deeper the need for one to prove to the dragon they were worthy.

As the fiery glow intensified within Balerion's gaping maw, the air around Aemon seemed to sizzle with the impending release of the dragon's breath. Once shrouded in shadows, the cavern now danced with the flickering light that heralded the destructive power about to be unleashed.

Aemon stood his ground, facing the imminent torrent of dragonfire with a resolute stare. The heat swelled, the anticipation building as Balerion prepared to unleash the destructive force that had instilled fear across generations.

Aemon Targaryen was standing resolute before the colossal form of Balerion the Black Dread. The cave was hot as magma, and the sulfur smell of the seven hells encompassed Aemon's senses as the young prince, though cloaked in the awe-inspiring presence of the dragon, uttered words in the ancient Valyrian tongue. Aemon spoke to Balerion, his voice strong and resolute; no fear was heard, even if Aemon felt it in his heart. Aemon said the words that he had read in Aegon's dagger the last time he was here.

"Hen issa ānogar, māzigon kivio dārilaros se zȳhon jāhor sagon se vāedar hen suvion se perzys."

But just as the flames were on the brink of bursting forth, something shifted within the ancient dragon. Once on the verge of consuming the young prince, the fiery anticipation now retreated. A subtle quiver passed through its colossal frame, and the searing inferno held at bay. The molten glow within Balerion's throat dimmed, and the imminent threat of annihilation receded.

Balerion, the Black Dread, regarded Aemon with eyes that seemed to pierce the very core of his being. The ancient Valyrian words echoed through the cavern, resonating with the magic that bound dragons and riders through time.

As Aemon uttered the High Valyrian incantation, the young Targaryen and the colossal dragon formed a connection. It was a bond woven with the threads of ancient sorcery and the shared destiny of dragonlord and dragon. The air itself responded to the words, vibrating with a resonance that transcended the ordinary.

At that moment, the fiery potential that had threatened to consume Aemon transformed into a manifestation of raw power. The molten glow that contradicted itself by consuming the light and darkness within Balerion's throat shifted, not in preparation for destruction, but as a response to the unspoken contract being forged. The flames pulsed with an otherworldly rhythm, an acknowledgment that this was no ordinary encounter. Balerion, the Black Dread, accepted the unspoken vow, and in that shared moment, a silent understanding passed between dragon and rider.

Aemon continued on. The closer Aemon got, the more he felt like Balerion was too large for this very world. This was the creature that did the most during the Conquest. This was the creature that made the Iron Throne. His climb to the dragon was slow, and while Balerion looked at Aemon, it was as though Aemon walked and climbed with purpose, but one could not walk without fear when the predator of the territory was waiting for you to make a mistake, waiting for the guard to be done and eat you.

The ascent of Aemon Targaryen, scaling the mammoth form of Balerion, unfolded in a slow dance between man and dragon. The cavernous expanse of the Dragonpit bore witness to the unlikely pairing, a small figure against the vast shadow of the Black Dread.

The climb was arduous, and the labyrinth of ropes seemed an intricate puzzle. Aemon, fueled by a determination beyond his years, persisted until he reached the pinnacle of Balerion's back. There, against the backdrop of scales that glistened like midnight, the boy secured himself to an oversized saddle meant for a full-grown rider. Aemon, a mere speck in the grandeur of Balerion, sat resolutely in the saddle.

The saddle on Balerion's back, a stark juxtaposition against the majestic dragon's gleaming scales, bore the scars of functionality rather than aesthetic refinement. It stood as a testament to utility, a tool fashioned for the raw purpose of riding into the heart of unknown realms. It was asymmetrical, crude, and distinctly unadorned—a far cry from the opulent trappings of royal steeds.

Aemon, strapped onto this unwieldy apparatus, gripped a handle that seemed to have endured countless journeys. The young Targaryen, undeterred by the saddle's lack of elegance, sat resolute in his pursuit. As he urged Balerion to move, the massive dragon responded to Aemon's command, muscles rippling beneath obsidian scales. The cavernous chamber echoed with the sound of his steps.

"Jikagon, Balerion, jikagon!" Aemon's voice, firm and determined, cut through the air. The ancient dragon, heeding the call, carried the small figure atop his back towards the cavern's entrance. The journey into the unknown awaited, and the unspoken bond between rider and dragon set the stage for a destiny that unfolded with each resolute step forward.

The rhythmic thunder of Balerion's footsteps reverberated through the cavern, each stride shaking the very foundations of the subterranean realm. Aemon, perched atop the dragon's back, felt the vibrations course through his being, a testament to the immense power of the creature beneath him. The entrance was too small for Balerion; it should have been big enough for Vhagar, maybe if Balerion were fifty or sixty years younger and far smaller. It was so small that Ameon realized that Balerion had not left the caves in decades.

As Balerion approached the cavern's exit, Aemon's mind churned with questions. How had the great dragon survived in this confined space for decades? What sustenance sustained such a colossal beast in the depths of the earth? The young Targaryen's thoughts raced, the mysteries of Balerion's existence weaving a tapestry of wonder and intrigue. The dragon, however, exhibited an unwavering determination to traverse the smaller entrance. Aemon clung to the crude saddle, eyes wide with anticipation. Balerion slammed into the cave entrance as the stalactites and stalagmites fell and crumbled. The earth shook as Balerion slammed into the entrance with enough force to crumble keeps and castles.

The resounding tumult echoed through the Dragonpit, a symphony of destruction as Balerion, the Black Dread, burst forth into the open. Rubles and rocks are flying and careening in all directions. The explosion of stone and rock flying into the Blackwater Bay. Dust and clouds of grim and dirt covered everything around them as the form of the Black Dread began moving through the smoke and dust it covering his body like a blanket. It was as though Balerion was the largest arrow ever shot as he was covered in rubble and dust, like a gray comet. The very earth quivered beneath the dragon's colossal form, and Aemon clung to the ungainly saddle, a witness to the raw power unleashed by the mighty beast.

Balerion's immense wings unfurled, stretching like the shadowy wings of a dark deity, and with a mighty beat, the dragon ascended into the night sky. The ground trembled with each powerful thrust, and the fragmented remnants of the cave's entrance crumbled in the wake of Balerion's emergence.

King's Landing, nestled below the Dragonpit's hill, felt the shockwaves of the dragon's escape. Balerion took serval flaps of his wings before the dragon that had broken out of the ground bellow the cliff that the Red Keep rested on, began to ascend high into the skies, higher then the Red Keep. Buildings trembled, and the citizens, caught in the grip of unexpected fear, looked skyward, unsure of the source of the seismic disturbance.

Aemon, atop Balerion's back, clung to the saddle as the dragon soared higher, leaving the shattered entrance and the Dragonpit behind. The night air rushed past them as they ascended, a swirling current of wind and freedom. Aemon's heart raced with a mixture of exhilaration and trepidation; his destiny intertwined with the legendary creature that bore him aloft.

Beneath the colossal silhouette of Balerion, King's Landing lay cloaked in the dragon's shadow. The only thing showcasing the dragon mid-flight was the countless stars in the sky; whenever Balerion passed, his black silhouette covered the stars enough for his form to be seen. The monstrous wings, a span that seemed to span the entire heavens, eclipsed the celestial bodies, casting an otherworldly darkness upon the city. The roars echoed through the night, a proclamation of Balerion's return to the realm of the living. The large black dragon covered the moon and stars, and the white light of the stars and moon was blotted out by the large body. It was as though the shining night sky was nothing but a blackened abyss.

As the deafening echoes of Balerion's triumphant roars resonated through the night air, the people of King's Landing stirred from their slumber. The city was plunged into a surreal scene between awe and terror. The ancient dragon, whose existence had been shrouded in myth and legend, had emerged with a ferocity that demanded attention.

"Sōvegon, Balerion, sōvegon!" Aegon roared.

Back in the skies, Aemon clung to the saddle atop Balerion's back, the wind whipping through his hair as they soared through the night. The city, now far below, looked like a sprawling mosaic of flickering candles against the encroaching darkness.

Aemon's small form clung to Balerion's scaled back, his eyes wide with wonder and amazement. His fingers tangled in the coarse mane of the dragon, feeling the warmth of Balerion's body beneath him. The night air was crisp, and Aemon's cheeks flushed with the cold as he grinned from ear to ear.

As Balerion soared through the skies above King's Landing, Aemon's first flight became an exhilarating dance between fear and awe. The dragon's colossal wings, each beat a hurricane-force gust, propelled them forward with a speed that defied earthly limits. The sheer force of Balerion's wings threatened to tear Aemon from the saddle, sending him momentarily airborne before he desperately secured himself once more.

The winds rushed past him, tousling his unruly black hair and pulling at his cloak. The sensation was exhilarating, a wild dance with the elements. Aemon's heart pounded in sync with the dragon's wings, the thud echoing through his chest. He felt alive, liberated from the constraints of the ground, a creature of the night sky.

In the midst of this soaring journey, Aemon couldn't contain his joy. He threw his head back and howled into the skies, a sound of pure elation that echoed through the night. The dragon beneath him responded with a mighty roar, its scales shimmering in the moonlight. The bond between rider and dragon deepened with each passing moment, a connection forged in the crucible of flight.

The city of King's Landing unfolded below like a sprawling tapestry, its intricate patterns illuminated by the soft glow of moonlight. The Red Keep, with its towering spires, stood as a sentinel against the night sky. The city's countless structures, from the modest dwellings of Flea Bottom to the opulent estates of the nobility, formed a mosaic of light that shimmered in the darkness. As they ascended higher, Aemon's eyes widened at the breathtaking sight.

The Red Keep, with its sprawling courtyards and formidable walls, looked like a miniature fortress from their vantage point. The winding streets of King's Landing, normally teeming with life, were now silent and tranquil beneath the dragon's shadow.

The rush of wind against Aemon's face carried with it the scents of the city — a mixture of saltwater from the bay, the aroma of hearth fires, and the faintest hint of blooming flowers. Balerion's wings continued to beat with a rhythmic force, creating a mesmerizing symphony that resonated through the night.

Aemon's gaze wandered beyond King's Landing towards the horizon where the vast expanse of the Crownlands stretched out before them. The rolling hills, the distant forests, and the shimmering waters of Blackwater Bay came into view. It was a panorama that few had witnessed from such heights, and Aemon marveled at the beauty of the world unfolding beneath Balerion's wings.

As they continued their flight, Aemon clung to the saddle, the rush of wind and the unparalleled view etching memories of his first flight into his mind. The thrill of the skies, the sights of the world below, and the realization that he was now part of a mythic tale unfolded before him, promising an interesting story for future history books.

As Balerion ascended higher into the night sky above King's Landing, Aemon clung tightly to the dragon's back, his small hands gripping the scales. Despite Aemon's attempts to command the mighty beast, Balerion seemed to have a mind of his own, ignoring Jon's wishes and soaring even higher into the vast expanse. Balerion seemed to revel in his newfound freedom, disregarding the commands of his young rider. The wind howled around them as they ascended beyond the clouds, the air growing colder and thinner. Aemon's fingers tightened around the scales beneath him as he held on for dear life.

The city lights below began to resemble distant, twinkling stars as they climbed above the clouds. Aemon's eyes widened with a mixture of awe and trepidation as Balerion pushed the boundaries of the night sky. The air grew colder, and the atmosphere thinned, but the dragon showed no signs of slowing down.

Then, abruptly, Balerion ceased his powerful wingbeats, halting his ascent. The sudden stillness in the air left Aemon momentarily breathless and weightless. Before he could comprehend what was happening, Balerion executed a breathtaking maneuver. The dragon flipped gracefully in the air, his massive form twisting against the backdrop of the moonlit clouds.

The world seemed to spin around Aemon as Balerion faced downward, hurtling toward the ground with alarming speed. The sensation of weightlessness enveloped Aemon, his stomach lurching as the dragon descended in a controlled freefall. The wind roared in Aemon's ears, drowning out any other sound, and his black hair whipped wildly around his face.

Balerion's wings remained tightly folded against his body as the dragon executed the daring descent. The night air rushed past them like a torrent, and the city lights blurred into streaks of color. Aemon's heart raced, a thrilling mixture of fear and exhilaration coursing through his veins.

The descent continued faster than Aemon could have imagined. The ground below loomed closer, and Aemon's screams of glee mingled with the wind's howl. It was a heart-stopping moment, a plunge toward the earth that defied the conventions of gravity. In those fleeting seconds, Aemon felt truly alive, suspended between the heavens and the world below.

As Balerion neared the ground, the dragon opened his wings with a powerful beat, arresting their descent just above the city's skyline. The sudden change in momentum sent a jolt through Aemon's body, and he clung to Balerion, breathless and exhilarated. The dragon leveled off, soaring low over the city, and Aemon, despite the initial shock, couldn't suppress the laughter that bubbled up from deep within. It was a laugh of triumph, of conquering the night sky alongside a creature born of legends. Aemon turned to Balerion as the dragon looked back, and Aemon dared say the dragon looked smug with every faint twitch of its lips showing a smile.

As Aemon guided Balerion through the skies toward the North, the wind rushing past them carried a chill that spoke of the skies' icy embrace. Aemon, drawing from his experiences as Jon Snow and former rider of Rhaegal the Emerald Death, expertly handled the dragon's reins, ensuring a steady and controlled flight. Aemon knew from experience it would take a day and night, with no rest and stops, to reach Winterfell itself. But it only took a bit more than half that time to reach the Riverlands.

The Riverlands unfolded beneath them, its terrain a patchwork of fields, rivers, and woods. Aemon knew well the lingering resentment the River lords harbored for House Targaryen, a sentiment rooted in the tumultuous past of his parents, Daemon Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Aware of the uneasy reception he might face, Aemon decided to press on without lingering in the Riverlands.

With each beat of Balerion's powerful wings, the landscape transformed below. As Aemon pressed onward, his thoughts turned to Winterfell and the Wall, symbols of his past and the looming threat beyond.

Balerion, the mighty Black Dread, was an awe-inspiring sight against the sky. As they approached the familiar territory of the North, Aemon couldn't help but feel a mixture of anticipation and uncertainty. The North was his ancestral home, and Winterfell held the memories of his upbringing as Jon Snow.

As night fell, Aemon decided to descend and find a secluded spot to rest. Landing Balerion in a quiet valley, Aemon dismounted, feeling the weight of his journey and the burden of the responsibilities that lay ahead. The embers of a long-dead campfire hinted at past travelers who had found solace in this hidden alcove.

Aemon gathered some dry wood and kindled a fire, its flickering light casting shadows on the rugged terrain. He leaned against a rock, contemplating the path he had chosen. The rhythmic crackle of the flames provided a comforting backdrop to his thoughts.

The night passed, and as dawn painted the sky in hues of pink and gold, Aemon rose to continue his journey. The North awaited, and the ancient magic that bound him to Balerion whispered of a destiny entwined with the impending threat beyond the Wall. With resolve in his heart, Aemon mounted Balerion once more, guiding the dragon northward toward Winterfell and the looming darkness that threatened to engulf the realm.

As Balerion soared over the lands of House Reed, Aemon marveled at the mysterious nature of Greywater Watch. The ancient castle, shrouded in secrecy, had eluded the gaze of many over the centuries. Aemon knew that the Crannogmen, the elusive people of the Neck, were skilled in the art of moving their home to avoid unwanted visitors.

Despite the vastness of the landscape beneath them, Aemon's attempt to locate Greywater Watch proved futile. The marshy terrain, interspersed with winding rivers and dense vegetation, concealed the elusive keep. Balerion's roars echoed through the swamps, a proclamation of Targaryen's presence in the North.

With a resigned sigh, Aemon urged Balerion to continue their journey. The plan to gather northern houses and march to the Wall remained unchanged. The Crannogmen, bound to their secretive ways, would remain a mystery to Aemon.

As Balerion circled over the marshy lands of the Neck, Aemon contemplated the enigmatic tactics employed by the crannogmen. The elusive nature of Greywater Watch had long confounded would-be invaders, and the strategic advantage of the terrain was evident in the failed attempts to conquer the keep. Aemon recognized the significance of securing the crannogmen's support, not only for their knowledge of the region but also for their unique skills in guerrilla warfare.

With a resolute decision, Aemon guided Balerion toward the heart of the Neck, seeking to make contact with the crannogmen who dwelled in the hidden recesses of the marshes. The challenge lay not only in finding Greywater Watch but also in earning the trust of a people accustomed to isolation and secrecy.

As they descended toward the boggy terrain, Aemon scanned the surroundings for any signs of the crannogmen. The landscape seemed to shift beneath the dragon's wings, mirroring the elusive nature of the keep they sought. Aemon knew that patience and diplomacy would be essential in gaining the cooperation of the crannogmen.

Aemon heard the sounds of movement to the northeast. He urged Balerion closer to it and soon realized it was the sound of rushing men and screams of blood lust. The sounds of battle echoed through the marshes as Aemon descended, his eyes narrowing to discern the chaotic scene unfolding below. The dim light cast long shadows over the boggy terrain, where the clash of arms mingled with guttural roars and the squelching of mud-soaked boots.

As Balerion came closer to the soggy ground, close enough for the trees to nearly touch Balerion's stomach, he bearly glided over the tree line. With a single flap of his wings, the winds picked up so harshly that trees were uprooted, and the gust of wind forced everything around like the push and pull of a hurricane.

Aemon's gaze fixated on the confrontation. A horde of Wildlings, perhaps a hundred in number, their unkempt forms moving with primal intensity, surged downhill toward a small group of Northmen of no more than two dozen. The Northerners, clad in armor dulled by the marsh's muck, stood resolute against the impending onslaught.

Among the defenders, one figure brandished a formidable pike adorned with a flag displaying the emblem of a black lizard-lion on grey-green—a clear indication that these Northmen hailed from House Reed. Aemon recognized the sigil, a reminder of the elusive crannogmen's loyalty to their ancestral home.

The Wildlings, armed with makeshift weapons, advanced with a ferocity that threatened to overwhelm the outnumbered defenders. The clash was visceral, the mud-soaked battleground becoming a canvas for the brutal dance of combat. Aemon felt the tension in the air as the fate of the Northmen hung in the balance.

Without hesitation, Aemon urged Balerion forward, the dragon's massive wings casting shadows over the skirmish. The sight of a dragon descending upon the battlefield momentarily arrested both Wildlings and Northmen, their attention diverted from each other to the new, unexpected player in the unfolding drama.

Balerion, the Black Dread, descended upon the marshy battlefield with a thunderous impact that shook the very foundations of the land. The colossal dragon's landing was a force of nature, sending shockwaves through the muck and causing every man in the vicinity to be thrown to the ground, caught in the grip of Balerion's might.

As the great dragon stalked forward, its scales gleaming like polished obsidian, a palpable sense of dread swept over the Wildlings and Northmen alike. The ferocity of Balerion's presence was enough to incite terror in even the bravest hearts. The Northmen, familiar with the ancient tales of Targaryen dragons, watched in awe as the legendary creature stood before them.

Balerion, towering seven hundred feet tall, far larger than the conquest that made him famous, surveyed the battlefield with a regal air. His eyes, as red as blood, glowed with a fierce intensity. A roar erupted from the depths of his powerful chest, a sound akin to rolling thunder that reverberated through the marsh. The sheer force of the roar was enough to make men clutch their ears in agony. Some began running but Balerion roared, roared like the living thunder and most men fell to their knees and covered their ears. The message clear, move and die.

No one dared to move as Balerion, the embodiment of death and destruction, presided over the scene. It was then that a realization dawned on the men below – atop Balerion's back stood a figure, small in comparison to the dragon but undeniably a dragonrider.

Aemon, having dismounted Balerion, strode purposefully towards the group of Northmen, his eyes scanning the faces for signs of recognition. He found that Balerion's presence was more than enough to keep everyone at bay due to no one wanting to anger the creature that stopped the fight. The Northmen, still recovering from the shock of Balerion's arrival, parted to allow Aemon through. The Reed banner, depicting a black lizard-lion on grey-green, fluttered in the marshy breeze, signifying their identity.

The Northmen of House Reed, clad in armor that bore the marks of the swampy terrain they hailed from, eyed Aemon with a mix of astonishment and gratitude. Aemon's presence, coupled with the legendary dragon at his side, marked a turning point in the battle.

Aemon descended from Balerion's back, his small frame in stark contrast to the colossal dragon behind him. The marshy ground beneath his boots squelched with each step as he approached the Northmen, who were now gazing at him with a mix of awe and reverence. The Wildings, still frozen in fear, cast wary glances at the Targaryen boy.

A wildling saw Aemon and looked at Balerion; they grumbled and cursed, but when they made a sudden movement, Balerion let out a deep rumble that showcased his willingness to burn them all.

A wildling spoke up, low enough that it was clearly intended for their fellow wildlings, but Aemon heard it. "A bloody child! The f*ck is that thing? How does a f*cking child tame something as long as the f*cking Wall is tall?"

A wildling woman with sun-kissed hair looked at the large, strong man who spoke. "Skinchanger, that's what he is. A strong one. I didn't even know a skin-changer could tame a thing that f*cking big."

"I didn't know the gods made something that f*cking big," another returned. "No ordinary lad could command a beast like that."

The Northmen, on the other hand, erupted in cheers at the sight of Aemon Targaryen, the son of Lyanna Stark, descending from the mighty dragon. The news of a dragon rider in their midst being Lyanna's son and the legendary Balerion was his mount spread through their ranks like wildfire, even if it was not needed since they all saw it.

Aemon turned to the Northmen and found a man who seemed to have been in charge. A shorter man with a pudgy belly. His long hair was of whips, almost like he had hair that reached his lower back but came from nothing. It was the deep green eyes that Aemon noticed; it marked the man as Reed, at least, it marked him as related to the three Reeds Aemon had during his lifetime as Jon Snow.

Aemon stretched his arm out for the older man, a head taller than Aemon, to clasp their arms with a smile as he looked at Aemon. "House Reed, I presume? I've heard tales of your moving castle. Impressive, though I must admit, hard to find."

The man was all smiles as the smile lines near his eyes shone how the man smiled more than frowned. "Aye, my prince. We've been expectin' the Wildings to make their way down. Never thought a dragon would arrive first.

"I am Aemon Targaryen, son of Princess Lyanna Stark and Prince Daemon Targaryen," Aemon told the man.

The crannogman looked to Aemon, smiled, and hooked his arm around a fellow soldier. "A Targaryen! Ha! We thought we were done for, but now we've got a dragon on our side."

"On that we know," he returned with a smile.

"You have her hair a curly, long mess, my prince."

"You don't need to finish every sentence with, my prince. I would rather not with the formalities," Aemon returned.

"You act like her, too," the man smiled as he reminisced. "Politer than her, but she hated the formalities just as much." he laughed as he looked at Aemon, and for the life of him, Aemon did not think the man was looking at him but rather through him to see Lyanna. "I am Jorah Reed, Lord of Greywater Watch."

"Lord Reed, I've come to rally the North against the impending threat from beyond the Wall.

"You're a boy," Jorah replied, looking at the five-year-old Aemon. The smile was gone and replaced with the harsh face of a Northman. "You don't even have a f*cking sword," he pointed out skeptically.

"Did you miss the large dragon behind you? I don't think the wildlings here did, and neither will be their kin," Aemon said. The pair looked at each other, staring for some time. Green eyes met the near-black-purple of Aemons. Aemon was calm, stoic, a form of emotionless only those of the Stark blood could show, for they were of the winter. "Winter is coming, Lord Reed; the wildlings seek to bring it to the North. It is high time they are reminded that the Starks rule over Winterfell, and it is they who bear the titles lords of winter."

Lord Reed said nothing as he looked at the small boy. The crannogman were short themselves, but even he was taller than a boy of five-name days. "Even with the Dread, I will not follow a mere boy so young that he pisses grass into a battle. I will not have the death of a child on my conscience when I face the gods. I will not follow a Targaryen, boy."

"There has never been a Stark who forgot an oath. And for a Stark, their first oath, before the Crown, is to the people of the North. I may not have the Stark name, but I have their blood. The blood of the kings of winter, the blood of the North. The North remembers."

No man said anything for some time as they looked to Lord Reed. The man looked to Aemon, anger etched into his face before a smile as grand as any North man could produce broke on his face. "The North remembers!"

"The North remembers!" the men of House Reed screamed in response.

"House Reed will stand behind House Stark as it has for a thousand years! And I will stand behind Aemon Targaryen. The Prince of the North!" he screamed. Many men screamed in response to Lord Reed's words; chants of the prince of the North echoed amongst the two dozen men. "What is your plan, your grace?"

"The Night's Watch can't hold back the tide alone; they are vulnerable in the South and will not survive if the Wildings attack from the South while the North is scattered around and leaving them to do as they wish. If the Wildings defeat the Watch, the remaining Wildlings will be free to climb the Wall, and the North will be lost to a force of over a hundred thousand wildlings, more than twice the North's number. We need to unite the North and prepare for the battles ahead. Will you join us?"

"Aye, my prince. The Reeds stand with the North."

"Get the rest of you soldiers from Greywater Watch to help chain the Wildings. Call the other crannogmen houses. House Blackmyre, House Boggs, House Cray, House Fenn, House Greengood, House Peat, and House Quagg. We will march North to Winterfell and get as many other houses as possible."

"It will take three days to summon them all, your grace," Lord Reed replied.

"You have one," Aemon replied. "The North has no time to give. Send riders and ravens. Tell the lords to meet at the Moat. Once all of them are there, march north to Winterfell."

"As for you?" the man asked.

"Once these Wildlings are in chains and the soldiers are here, I have to take Balerion and inform the other houses of the North and ensure the Wildings are not doing the same amount of damage as they would have here. House Reed is not the only Northern house that needs my aid and not the only house who are bannermen of House Stark."

Lord Reed nodded and agreed to the terms given; he ordered soldiers with letters sent to each crannogmen in the area and sent ravens to every keep in the north. The words were simple: "Winter was coming for the wildings, and with it came fire and blood." Simple enough and easy enough for the lords of their castles to know, only one person could claim the words of House Stark and House Targaryen. Even if the person was but a boy, if the words were said, the northern lords knew the crown would support them.

The one soldier that went to Greywater Watch returned with two hundred more soldiers from the keep. The soldiers were not there, to begin with, because Lord Reed had not gone to attack a group of wildings but to scout a small settlement that supposedly survived a wildling attack, which he did not believe even happened due to wildlings rarely going that far south.

Before the Aemon could climb on Balerion to leave, Lord Reed stopped the boy. He would not allow his prince to leave without some weapons to arm himself; Aemon had none due to leaving so quickly from King's Landing, trying to leave before anyone could stop him. He handed the prince a short sword and a dagger. He asked that Aemon not to leave the dragon, mostly as a jest because both knew he would not have done it; it would be foolish for a boy of five to fight any battles without a giant black dragon by his side if he had one, but he would ensure that Lyanna's son was ready for a fight if the boy was as stubborn as his mother to fight even if everyone tried to stop him.

Balerion took to the skies as they flew over the North for less than an hour. The icy skies allowed the winds. As Aemon soared through the northern skies atop Balerion, the mighty dragon's wings casting shadows over the rugged landscape, he set his sights on Flint's Finger.

Chapter 11: The Wall

Summary:

Aemon continues to gain the Houses of the North to fight against the wildling threat. Aemon makes it to the Wall for the first time since his life as Jon Snow and wishes to speak to the Lord Commander. Prince Aemon convinces the Lord Commander to send a group of Night's Watchmen beyond the wall.

Notes:

Hope you all like the story so far. Please don't forget to like and comment. Tell me your thoughts on the story so far. Thank you!

Chapter Text

Aemon Targaryen/ Jon Snow

The North 102 AC

The stone keep emerging on the horizon, a somber fortress of black stone walls and four square towers that reached stoically toward the heavens—sitting upon two stone hills with a bridge connecting the castle's two separate parts.

The banners of House Karstark of Karhold adorned the walls, a stark imagery of a white sunburst on black. The keep stood proudly amidst the northern wilderness, a testament to the resilience of the northern houses in the face of the impending threat, of the impending winter.

Descending outside the walls, Aemon saw the Karstarks bustling about, their faces etched with the weariness that came from preparing for the inevitable confrontation with the Wildlings. The air smelled of burning hearths and the faint scent of pine, a familiar northern ambiance that resonated with both familiarity and foreboding.

The sun began to dip below the horizon, casting a palette of warm hues across the sprawling landscape. Below, the forests and fields stretched out like a vast tapestry, the realm untouched by the impending danger that lurked beyond the Wall.

As Balerion descended upon Karhold, Aemon was met with the wary eyes of the Karstark guards, their armor clinking as they tightened their grip on weapons. Aemon, a mere child atop a colossal dragon, was an unsettling sight for those unaccustomed, especially since the black dragon was larger in size than their keep. The dragon was three times the size of the entire keep and was without his wings stretched wide for flight.

The guard, dressed in black and grey armor, stood tall on the ramparts of the outer walls. "Who goes there?"

"I am Aemon Targaryen, rider of Balerion the Black Dread. I've come seeking aid against the Wildling threat that plagues the North."

"A Targaryen, you say? With black hair? Targaryens don't have black hair. There are no black-haired dragon riders; everyone knows that." the guard said. Aemon was slightly surprised that a soldier did not know who he was. Aemon thought it was common knowledge across the Seven Kingdoms, especially the North, that Daemon Targaryen took Lyanna Stark as a wife and had a son. Even if no one knew yet that Aemon rode Balerion, a black-haired Targaryen was known through most parts of the continent.

"You daft c*nt," another guard said, smacking the man behind the head. "That is Lyanna's boy. We did not know you were coming, your grace. No one did."

Aemon smirked at the reprimand. He turned to the man who was chastised and claimed that Aemon being a Targaryen was a jest. "Jest or not, the Wildlings are real, and they've already reached these lands. I am going to every house of the north to converge to Winterfell to fight off the imposing threats."

The captain exchanged wary glances with his men, their skepticism giving way to a realization that the times ahead were far graver than they had imagined. "We'll take you to Lord Karstark. He'll decide what aid we can offer."

The courtyard of Karhold was filled with a hushed tension as Aemon dismounted from Balerion, the great dragon's wings folding gracefully as it settled. Before Aemon could take a step, the gates creaked open, and a figure emerged, armor stained with the telltale signs of battle—a testament to the harsh realities of the North. The man with a thick, graying beard and balding head fell to his knees and bowed. "Karhold is yours, your grace."

The sudden act of submission sent ripples through the gathered crowd, soldiers and smallfolk alike. Aemon, taken aback, looked at the Lord, and the people followed suit as they bowed to Aemon.

Aemon gestured for the man to rise as all others waited for their Lord to rise first before doing the same. "Rise, my Lord. There's no need for such formality."

Lord Karstark got up to his feet. And looked down at the Stark-looking Targaryen. "Your grace, I never thought to see a Northener riding a dragon in these lands."

Aemon smirked slightly before his face turned back to serious brooding. "I imagine the North has had its fair share of surprises lately. I am Aemon, son of Lyanna Stark. I've come with urgency, seeking aid against the Wildlings."

The Lord showed no signs of surprise as he spoke. "I figured as much, lad. My daughter is your grandfather's good sister. I knew very well that if the Stark blood ran true in you, you'd come here to fight, but I thought a few knights would be enough to stop you. We had no word that you were coming... and the dragon?"

"It's a recent development. I claimed Balerion the day before last and flew north immediately. The North does not yet know of my arrival; my grandfather, Lord Stark, does not know I have a dragon yet."

"Knowing that you have Balerion before Rickon Stark does is something I am going to hold over him until my dying day," Lord Karstark chuckled with much mirth. "The North will rejoice at this news. We've been praying for some hope, your grace."

"Hope is what I've come to offer," Aemon said. "Actually, I offer a dragon, but I believe Balerion would be enough," he returned. Some of the courtyards chuckled.

"Sharp little wolf, aren't you, my prince?" Lord Karstark asked. The man sighed before he looked at Aemon skeptically. "Why have you come, your grace?"

"We must gather the strength of the North to face this threat together. The wildlings have crossed the Wall, but there are nearly one hundred thousand still North of the Wall, and they will come through soon."

Aemon looked around the courtyard and the people to see their reactions. The courtyard of Karhold bore the scars of recent struggles, the air thick with a mix of tension and weariness. "Three fights we've had with the wildlings already lost no less than three dozen men. The savages are relentless," Lord Karstark cursed.

Aemon nodded solemnly as he looked Lord Karstark in the eyes. "I know of the fighting. That's why I came as swiftly as I could. The North needs every blade it can muster."

"It's a long journey to Winterfell, boy. You should rest. We all should."

"I'll rest when the North is secure. We don't have the luxury of time."

Silence lingered for a moment before Lord Karstark, recognizing the urgency in Aemon's eyes, asked the inevitable question. Lord Karstark seemed to struggle with something in his heart. "What do you need from me?"

"Gather as many guards as you can. We march to Winterfell. The North must stand united."

Lord Karstarkt said nothing for some time before looking to Balerion; as it towered over Karhold, Balerion dwarfed the walls and the keep in size and height, then back to Aemon. "I'd have done so already, but the Wildlings keep attacking around the keep. I can't leave Karhold unattended, or the common folk will be slaughtered."

Aemon's gaze hardened with resolve as he considered the predicament.

"If you don't go, the wildings already south will march to the Night's Watch and take the Night's Watch from the south, where they are weak. Once The Watch falls, the Wall will fall to the hundred thousand coming down from the deep North. You won't be alone. We will take down as many wildlings as we come across before we go to Winterfell. The crannogmen will reach the Moat. "

"Your grace, my men will be too weary to join forces with anyone if we keep on needing to fight skirmishes in the surrounding lands," Lord Karstark replied.

"I have not stopped in two entire days; I flew from every keep in the North that is south of Winterfell and stopped as many wildlings as I could to get all the houses to rally their men and march. Torrhen's Square, Castle Cerwyn, Oldcastle, New Castle, Widow's Watch, Flint's Finger, Hornwood, I went to all these castles and then spoke to the Lords who ruled over them and went on to more and more keeps to ensure the House Stark has their banners called. I have not failed yet and will not do so now."

"Your grandfather had sent the ravens to call his banner, but we had not the chance to act on them due to the wildlings already upon us," Lord Karstark told him.

"That is why I am here. Me and my dragon, my Lord. That last push. I fought enough skirmishes for the wildlings to know of my dragon and will retreat, maybe for enough time for the North to regroup," Aemon said. As he said that, Balerion let out a deathly roar that shook the keep and the ground around him; it was as though Balerion was calling a storm with nothing but a shout.

"What of you, my prince?" the man asked.

"I will go North," Aemon said resolutely.

"My prince?"

"Beyond the Wall," Aemon clarified. "The Night's Watch deserters that make camp north of the Wall, have information on the Night's Watch that, if the wildlings learn of it, will speed up their march and take down the Wall in a few days rather than a few weeks. Weeks that could give us time to band together to face off against the wildlings," Aemon clarified.

The man said nothing for some time. He looked to Aemon, then the people in his keep; some were still covered in blood from the last wilding raids, one of which must have invaded the keep somehow. Both Aemon and Lord Karstark looked to a girl who had her arm severed several days ago as the raw red stump was being rebandaged. "For the North," was the only reply Aemon was given. Aemon knew all was settled, and he left to go North to the Wall.

Flying deeper into the North, the landscape shifted beneath them. Vast forests and snow-covered peaks stretched out, a testament to the rugged beauty that characterized the northern realm. Aemon's thoughts turned to Winterfell, the seat of House Stark, and the Wall, the ancient barrier that guarded against the mysterious forces beyond.

The frigid air stung Aemon's face as he soared over the unforgiving landscapes of the North. Balerion, the Black Dread, beat his colossal wings against the biting winds as they advanced toward the Wall. The skies, once a canvas of azure, were now draped in the pallor of winter soon to come.

The frigid air cut through Aemon's cloak, given to him by the Flints of Flint's Finger, which he had spoken to directly after House Reed, as he soared over the snow-covered expanse of the North, the biting winds accompanying him on his journey. The landscape, usually clad in the greens and browns of summer, was now a vast sea of white, an unyielding winter even in the heart of the warm season.

Balerion's wings beat against the cold currents, propelling them forward with a powerful rhythm. The icy winds rushed past Aemon's face, his eyes squinting against their sharp bite. The vastness of the North unfolded beneath him, a land untouched by the warmth of summer.

The snow-covered hills rolled below a serene but harsh beauty that painted the land in hues of white and grey. Frozen lakes mirrored the cold sky above, their surfaces reflecting the desolation of the North. Streams and rivers lay hidden beneath layers of ice, waiting for the elusive warmth that seemed to elude them. Aemon could see a large structure in the distant north, one that almost bended in with the snow and ice, but so large was the building, the Wall.

As Aemon approached the Wall, its massive structure loomed like a great sentinel of ice against the barren landscape. As Aemon gazed upon the colossal structure that was the Wall, memories of his time as Jon Snow flooded his mind. The immense barrier stretched three hundred miles across the Northern landscape, a formidable bulwark against the unknown lands that lay beyond. Its sheer size, seven hundred feet tall, was a monument to the strength and determination of the Night's Watch.

The Wall, a combination of ice, stone, and earth, possessed an imposing presence visible for miles around. Depending on the weather and time of day, it took on different hues—grey or blue, a silent guardian standing tall against the elements. The top of the Wall was a broad expanse, wide enough for a dozen mounted knights to ride side by side, and it grew thicker at its base.

Aemon couldn't help but marvel at the Wall's straight, unyielding line, resembling a sword thrust into the very heart of the North. Yet, it wasn't a continuous structure; from Castle Black to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, it stood proud and unbroken, but between Castle Black and the Shadow Tower, it wound like a serpent, adapting to the natural contours of the land.

The enormity of the Wall, reaching seven hundred feet into the sky, was a scale beyond Aemon's comprehension. It was as tall as Balerion was long, casting a shadow over the vast, snowy landscape below. As he approached the Wall on the back of the mighty dragon, Aemon felt a mix of awe and determination, knowing that the fate of the North rested on the resilience of this ancient barrier and the sworn brothers who defended it.

Aemon steeled himself for the journey northward, ready to soar over the Wall and confront the challenges that lay ahead. His mind swirled with conflicting emotions and memories—of Jon Snow, the man he used to be, who had lived among the Free Folk, sharing their meals, their language, their lives.

As he prepared to face the Night's Watch deserters and the looming threat of the Wildling forces, Aemon couldn't shake the knowledge that he might have to unleash the destructive power of Balerion upon those he had once called allies. Aemon thought he might use Balerion to destroy the future Craster's Keep and eradicate the five hundred or so deserters in a single move, quick and easy. If it came to it, he could go further north and show the Free Folk who they truly were facing. He harbored no illusions about the harsh realities of war. Having lived with the Free Folk, he understood their ways, their struggles, and their fierce determination to survive.

Aemon had loved among them, dined at their hearths, and even shared their beds. But duty, that unyielding force that had led him to kill his own kin, now beckoned him beyond the Wall. The weight of duty, the solemn commitment to protect the realm, outweighed the warmth of love and desire. Jon Snow had fought wildlings beyond the Wall, and Jon Snow had killed several to escape and warn the Night's Watch of Mance Rayder. Jon Snow killed his fellow Northmen while fighting to reclaim Winterfell for House Stark. Aemon cared about the living and would fight for it, but he could only fight for the living if he was himself living to do so.

In his heart, Aemon knew that love might be the death of duty, but for Jon Snow, the Kin Slayer who had brought about the fall of Daenerys Targaryen, duty was the death of love. His duty to face the Long Night meant that he would do anything necessary to unify the realm, even killing the Free Folk he knew so well. He would try to avoid killing them, but Aemon knew that Free Folk respected strength, and the person who was willing to use it, not just threaten with it, and a dragon is nothing if not strong.

Balerion's thunderous roar echoed through the air as Aemon pressed his mount toward the Wall, determined to confront the Night's Watch deserters and the looming Wildling threat. However, Balerion, the mighty Black Dread, defied his rider's commands. With a powerful beat of his wings, the dragon stopped abruptly, turning sharply to fly backward, away from the Wall.

Aemon, perplexed and disturbed, pulled at the reins, attempting to guide Balerion past the monumental structure of ice. Yet, the dragon resisted, repeating his refusal to cross the Wall. Aemon tried several more times, each time with the same result. Before the snout of the dragon could pass a section of ice, the dragon would turn back, going south so quickly that if Aemon was not secure on his saddle, Aemon would have flown right off.

Confusion clouded Aemon's mind. His recollection of Daenerys using dragons beyond the Wall to rescue him from the Others, clashed with the present reality. Why did Balerion, now under Aemon's command, hesitate to pass the Wall and venture beyond?

Aemon's frustration grew with each attempt to persuade Balerion to cross the Wall. The dragon's defiance perplexed him, and a sense of foreboding settled in his chest. He tugged at the reins, urging Balerion forward, only to be met with the same unyielding resistance.

Aemon struggled against the invisible force that held Balerion back from crossing the Wall. Balerion would not even reach the first inch of ice; he merely turned around right before his snout could even pass the first section of ice. Frustration transformed into anger, and he screamed in futile defiance. The dragon refused to pass the monumental ice structure.

Aemon's anger boiled to the surface, his screams echoing in the icy air as he grappled with the realization that his dragon, the mighty Balerion, would not heed his call. The ominous presence of the Wall, standing as an insurmountable obstacle, fueled his frustration.

Questions swirled in his mind—was there some ancient magic lingering within the Wall that affected the dragons? Did Bran the Builder, the one who made the Wall, put magic into the Wall that prevented magic from crossing? Or was Balerion sensing a danger beyond, one that even the dragon hesitated to confront? It didn't matter if he could not cross the Wall with a dragon he would have to do so the original way.

As Aemon approached Castle Black on the colossal Balerion, guards hurriedly gathered at the gates, their faces a mix of fear and awe at the sight of the mighty dragon. The walls were pathetic, weak, and run down, just as the kings of winter wanted them to ensure another Lord Commander did not try his hand at becoming a king of the Wall once more. He dismounted once more and walked closer on foot.

One bold guard, perhaps driven by curiosity, dared to question Aemon's presence. "What brings you here, lad? And what's that monstrous beast with you?"

Aemon, looking toward Balerion, replied with a stone-cold face of emotionless indifference, a face Aemon heard several guards claim was Stark. "Seems rather obvious, doesn't it?" Aemon pointed to the large dragon that dwarfed the entirety of Castle Black in size. The dragon that size compared to only to the Wall itself, Balerion's head alone covered the sun from shining on Castle Black as he raised his long neck into the skies with pride. "Large dragon, Stark coloring. I'm a Targaryen, and this here is Balerion. That should answer the first part."

"What brings a Targaryen to the Wall?"

"The wildings. I need to speak with the Lord Commander." The guards seemed to not wish to put up a fight with a dragon rider as they hurriedly ordered the gates opened.

The gates of Castle Black groaned as they opened, revealing the expansive courtyard filled with bustling activity. Balerion loomed over the ancient castle, his watchful eyes surveying the surroundings as Aemon entered with ten men of the Night's Watch by his side. Aemon observed the scene before him – a sight he never thought to witness again.

Within the castle walls, the air was alive with the clatter of armor, the ring of swordplay, and the diligent hum of men preparing for the unknown. The courtyard was a canvas of black-clad figures, each engaged in a task to fortify the stronghold against the imminent threat.

Aemon, his face an enigmatic mask, navigated through the sea of Night's Watch brothers, memories of his past life as Jon Snow resonating with the present. Though his expression remained stoic, a subtle satisfaction glimmered in his eyes at the sight of Castle Black teeming with life and purpose.

As Aemon traversed the familiar grounds of Castle Black, memories of his time as Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, flooded his mind. The imposing structure, not a true castle by traditional standards, stood defiantly against the harsh northern landscape. To the west, east, and south, there were no walls, only the formidable Wall to the north, a constant reminder of the Watch's sacred duty.

The castle itself was a collection of sturdy stone towers and weathered timber keeps, rising amidst the cold winds and biting chill. The structures bore the scars of countless winters, a testament to the enduring legacy of the Night's Watch. Subterranean passages, hidden beneath the keeps and towers, crisscrossed beneath the frozen ground, serving as vital conduits during the harsh winter months.

During Aemon's tenure as Jon Snow, these tunnels had been essential for navigating the castle's various sections, especially in the unforgiving winter. Now, as he walked through the courtyard, he could almost hear the echoes of conversations, the clinking of armor, and the rhythmic footsteps of Night's Watch brothers.

A small sept, under the guidance of Septon Chayle, if Aemon heard the men coming from the sept correctly, occupied a corner of Castle Black. Though modest, the sept held a quiet sanctity for those seeking solace and reflection in the face of the looming Wall. Aemon's gaze swept across the familiar sights, each stone and timber structure holding the weight of history and duty, a stark contrast to the ever-present threat beyond the Wall.

As Aemon is escorted through the bustling corridors of Castle Black, the eyes of the Night's Watch follow the towering silhouette of Balerion overhead, the dragon that played a pivotal role in forging the Seven Kingdoms. Whispers and murmurs spread like wildfire among the black-clad brothers as they caught sight of the young Targaryen prince, a mere five years of age, accompanied by the awe-inspiring creature that looms above. Aemon realized that the guards were leading him to the mess hall.

The crowd swelled as they approached the mess hall, where the Night's Watch was in the midst of a meager feast. At the high table, a gathering of distinguished figures occupied their seats. The maester, adorned with chains denoting his mastery of the Citadel's knowledge, was among them. The first ranger, a grizzled veteran of the icy wilderness, sat with a stoic demeanor.

However, it was the man at the head of the table who drew the attention of all present. The Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, a formidable figure with a burly frame, stood out. His steel-gray eyes scanned the influx of men, and the long, curled black hair pulled back into a partial bun framed a face marked by a harsh scar. There was a stern strength about him, reminiscent of the northern lords of House Stark.

The Lord Commander's gaze focused, and he met the eyes of the young Targaryen prince. The air in the mess hall hung with anticipation as the commander assessed the unexpected arrival, his expression betraying the lineage of a Stark in the northern stronghold.

The long, robust hall of Castle Black echoed with the shuffling of armored feet as Aemon was led toward the high table. Balerion's looming presence cast a shadow over the proceedings, the awe of the Night's Watch evident in the hushed murmurs and exchanged glances.

As the company neared the high table, the Lord Commander rose from his seat, his gaze fixed on Aemon. The harsh lines etched into his seasoned face conveyed a lifetime of experience, and his deep voice cut through the murmurs of the hall.

"What's the meaning of this? Bringing a boy to the Night's Watch?" the Lord Commander's voice reverberated with authority.

The guards accompanying Aemon quickly spoke up. "Prince Aemon Targaryen, son of Daemon Targaryen. He came upon the back of the Black Dread, Lord Commander." Many men began speaking and whispering about Aemon as a prince and a rider of the Black Dread.

The maester, an older man, frail man with skin that hung from his bones as if no muscle was there, looked at Aemon with his one good eye. "The Dread, he is here? Aegon's dragon?"

Aemon did not need to answer, as one of the guards did so for him. "Aye, big f*cker too. It could climb the entire Wall in three steps if that. Just outside, looking over the walls."

Lord Commander Stark's eyes narrowed, a glint of recognition shining through. "Lyanna's son, then?" he inquired, though he seemed to already know the answer.

Aemon nodded in affirmation. "Yes, I am Aemon, son of Lyanna Stark."

The Lord Commander's gaze held a mixture of surprise and wariness. "I am Benjen Stark, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. What brings you to Castle Black, Aemon Targaryen?"

Aemon's mind raced as he connected the familial dots within the House Stark. Benjen Stark, the Lord Commander, was not merely a commander—he was kin. The realization flickered across Aemon's features, his eyes widening briefly before settling into a determined gaze.

"You're my mother's grandfather. You're Lord Stark's father, aren't you?" Aemon ventured, a realization dawning upon him.

Benjen Stark's stern countenance softened briefly as he acknowledged the connection. "Aye, that I am. Rickon's my son, which makes me your great-grandfather, young Targaryen." His soft smile turned back to the cold face of Starks. Aemon looked to the Lord Commander and could not help but see his Uncle Ned if the man had grown old; the Lord Commander was no less than five and a half decades of age, the cold, stoic face of Starks not helping with his weathered face. "Now, boy, what brings you here."

"I came to help against the wildlings," Aemon responded with determination. Laughter erupted from some of the Night's Watchmen at the notion of a child facing wildlings. Mocking comments about his bravery were thrown around.

Lord Commander Stark silenced the hall with a stern command. "Enough! This boy brought the Black Dread," he declared, his gaze unwavering. "A dragon's worth more than any army." The weight of his words hushed the hall.

Aemon stood resolute, facing the assembly in the mess hall as he continued to share dire news. "Nearly twenty thousand wildlings have crossed the Wall, setting the North ablaze, destroying villages and keeps. I encountered a few hundred near Greywater Watch."

Lord Commander Benjen Stark scrutinized the report with a furrowed brow. "Wildlings don't band together like that," he asserted, his skepticism evident. "I know thousands have crossed, but such a unified force, so far from the new King Beyond the Wall? Unlikely."

Aemon met the Lord Commander's gaze, his tone unwavering. "Unified or not, they are south of the Wall, wreaking havoc."

Benjen Stark shook his head, a seasoned commander's doubt etched on his features. "Even if that were true, our duty is to the Wall. We can't march south to aid the North."

Aemon's expression hardened, realizing the resistance he faced in convincing the Night's Watch to extend their efforts beyond their sworn duty. "Men and women are dying. I understand your duty to the Wall, but the threat is not only to the North; it's to all of Westeros. If we don't act, the wildlings will continue south, leaving destruction in their wake." Aemon's eyes darted across the faces of the Night's Watch assembled, his gaze piercing through the dimly lit hall. Seemingly shifting the focus, he addressed the matter of the deserters from the last mutiny in Castle Black. "Is it true that they've taken a small keep as their base?" he inquired, already knowing the answer.

Lord Commander Stark nodded solemnly. "Aye, they've holed up at Osric's Keep." Aemon knew of Osric Stark; he was the youngest Lord Commander in Night's Watch history, elected at the age of ten, and served as Lord Commander for over sixty years. But Aemon had never heard of Osric's Keep before. Was it similar to Craster's?

"Osric's keep?" Aemon asked.

The Lord Commander looked to Aemon for some time before explaining. "A small hut just a few days ride from the Wall. It once was made during Osric Stark's time as Lord Commander as a small fort for our brothers to use, but wildlings have invaded and taken it over occasionally. But not for long."

Aemon wasted no time in asserting the urgency of dealing with this threat. "We need to get rid of them, now," he declared, his voice unwavering.

Maester Chayle raised an inquisitive brow. "Why such haste, young prince?"

Aemon's eyes burned with intensity. "They know the strengths and weaknesses of the Wall. The wildlings would find them before they reach the Wall, knowing where to attack. The deserters can reveal our defenses, and the wildlings will exploit them."

"Even if the c*nts betrayed us, they would not work with wildlings," one man argued.

"Not much of a choice with a knife at their throat, is there?" Aemon retorted. "The wildling army would reach Osric's Keep if we intervene or not. And if they find former Watchmen, they will still hate them as members of the Watch and want them dead either way. Tonuges are loosened pretty well with the threat of dagger." The men began speaking to one another. "Or the promise of a wildling woman after having sworn off women as a brother."

The maester spoke up. "Brothers of the Watch swore off women and would not betray those vows."

"I suppose Mole's Town brothel doesn't exist then," Aemon commented. Half the men in attendance began laughing at the comment.

The first ranger then decided to comment. "Going to the Mole's Town brothel is far different than bedding a wildling woman. It's different than bedding the enemy."

"No brother would bed the enemy!" one man screamed.

Aemon looked to the crowd before screaming back. "No brother would kill one of their brothers either, but here we are. We know them to have forsaken their oaths for their desires. Would it be that far of a leap to think them willing to forsake their former brothers for their lives and pleasures?"

Lord Commander Stark spoke up, asking the brothers questions. "What proof have you?"

Aemon looked to all the brothers in the room; he stood tall, as tall as a child could be among hardened men of the Wall. "I fought many wildlings on the way over here."

Aemon could hear several brothers speaking to one another in hushed whispers. "Not much of a fight when the lad has the f*cking Dread itself to breath fire on them."

"I doubt he needed even to do that. Did you see that thing land by the castle? The dread could sh*t on us, and we'll die," another brother continued.

Aemon continued without thinking of their words to distract them. "Some of the wildings I helped capture have confirmed their plan. Once the main force attempts to climb the Wall, the wildlings will attack Castle Black from the south, where it's vulnerable, to eliminate any opposition from within."

A hushed murmur spread through the Night's Watch as the gravity of Aemon's words settled in. The imminent threat weighed heavily on the minds of those in the hall, forcing them to confront the situation's urgency.

Aemon's eyes held a grave intensity as he continued to address the Night's Watch. "If we eliminate the deserters now, the information won't reach the wildlings."

"There are five hundred of them," the first ranger countered. "We'd need more than that to even stage an attack. They have Osric's Keep, they have an advantage, and any man with a brain would try to make the keep a stronger defense, and I can say at least a dozen of those desert bastards have half a brain. They would have an advantage."

Lord Commander Stark then continued, "Osric's Keep may not be much of a stronghold, but when resources are scarce, and you have half a thousand men defending it, the keep would be something we would be hard press to attack. Harder still to come with a plan that doesn't leave our forces cut down by at least a hundred that would still need to fight the wildlings marching south."

The first ranger agreed with Lord Commander Stark, "I don't see any way for us even to fight Osric's Keep if the defenses are strengthened without it being a siege unless we draw the men out of the keep to fight. And only a fool would leave the defenses of the keep."

Aemon looked at the men and noticed he was losing them. "Not if they think they have the numbers. If the deserters think they are secure in victory with numbers, they'll crush the men to show the Watch that they can fight and try to show they are strong. A few men go in, draw them out into an ambush of far greater numbers, and it leaves Osric's Keeps defines useless for them."

"That's still five hundred men, lad. We'd need at least the same number of men to make the battle work," the first ranger argued. Aemon could see he disliked arguing with a child about war.

"Five hundred men tomorrow and a hundred thousand in a month sound far better to me than a hundred thousand men by the end of the week. Either kill the deserters now or die by the wildlings in a few days. The wildlings would know what the deserters know, and that would get every man here killed. They won't know where we're most vulnerable, and, more importantly, they won't realize the most important secret we are trying to hide from them."

The Lord Commander furrowed his brow. "What do you mean by the most important secret?"

Aemon took a deep breath before revealing the harsh truth. "The wildlings outnumber the Watch, and even if each man of the Night's Watch were to kill ten wildlings, it still wouldn't be enough. We can't win in a direct confrontation. They have strength in numbers, and we have strength in the Wall. But if they know our weaknesses, they can exploit them and take the Wall. If they march right now, the Watch loses in a day or less."

Lord Commander Stark remained silent for a moment, contemplating the gravity of the situation. The hall buzzed with murmurs, a mix of concern, uncertainty, and the realization that they stood on the precipice of a dire threat.

Finally breaking the silence, Lord Commander Stark addressed Aemon's proposition. "If we eliminate these deserters swiftly, it buys us time, time the North needs to rally. You believe the wildlings are unaware of their numerical advantage?" he questioned, his gaze fixed on Aemon.

Aemon nodded resolutely. "Yes, Lord Commander. They don't realize the full extent of their advantage. Once they do, they'll strike swiftly. Eliminating the deserters now could give us the time we need."

Lord Commander Stark said nothing for some time. Aemon thought this conversation was happening far quicker than he thought it would. Mayhap his great-grandfather was cunning enough to know he needed to speak to Aemon quickly, so the information was delivered. Not enough time was given for the men to doubt Aemon for being a child, even if Aemon's words carried significance. Aemon would have to thank his great-grandfather for it, even if the man didn't know it yet.

"You talk far too well for a Stark, boy, no matter how you look," Lord Commander lightly chided. "Never thought I would be hearing sensible reasoning of war from the lips of a child. I would like to know what the dragon's feeding you. Whatever it is, it's effective."

"Far smarter than I was at twice his age," the maester's voice cut through the air. "The boy speaks truth," he declared, his tone carrying the weight of authority. "The wildlings must not realize the extent of our vulnerability. We need time. We need to deal with the deserters, secure the Wall, and prepare for what's to come."

Lord Commander Stark leaned back in his chair, his weathered face reflecting the weight of command. "Very well, we'll send a force to deal with Osric's Keep. We can't afford the wildlings exploiting our weaknesses. But the North is vast, and rallying the lords may take time. We must prepare for the inevitable." The Lord Commander observed the reactions of the men in the room before nodding. "I will sanction the trip to dispose of the Night's Watch deserters, but I won't order anyone to go—only volunteers."

Aemon, with determination etched on his face, spoke up immediately. "I volunteer."

"The Black Dread will win this!"

"The dragons will burn those wildling c*nts!"

Cheers erupted from some of the men, glad to have the might of Balerion the Black Dread on their side. The cheers continued on as they screamed and roared in delight. Men began volunteering for the fight. The men had wanted revenge for those killed when the deserters. The men wanted blood because the wildlings crossed the Wall, and the deserters had killed many good brothers, from what Aemon had been told.

Aemon knew that he was asking much. He knew he was stretching things far too far by bursting into the doors, claiming many things, many of which make sense, but all this came from a child, and no man grown would listen to a child about war. But Aemon prayed that by just having Balerion, a dragon that forged the kingdoms, some of the reputation of the former riders may be enough to mask Aemon's lack of credibility. Most of the men in the Watch were commoners who had never seen a prince in person, and once with the Dread was enough to bring enough false hope to half the men to trust Aemon's words like he was a god. But those of higher blood in attendance only say Aemon is a child with a living weapon too large for a child. But Balerion would not be there. The only reason Aemon was even entertained as decibel was because Balerion and the dragon would not join them.

Aemon did not notice it, but his hands were opening, and his fingers were stretching as if grasping air as he kept his hands low, covered slightly by his cloak. However, the Lord Commander's discerning eyes fell on Aemon, catching the boy's attempts to conceal the frantic movement of his hand—opening and closing it repeatedly.

With a shrewd expression, the Lord Commander pointed out Aemon's anxious gesture. "I know that trait. You're hiding something, boy."

"I don't know what you mean," Aemon said as he forced his hands to stop.

"You're hiding something, boy. Speak. Now!"

All eyes turned toward Aemon as the Lord Commander confronted him. Hesitatingly, Aemon admitted, "Balerion can't go beyond the Wall. I've tried, and he turns back every time we attempt to pass."

The Lord Commander, stern and resolute, questioned Aemon's audacity. "Do you seriously think I'd allow a child, barely five, beyond the Wall? One without a f*cking dragon."

Aemon, undeterred, declared, "I will help and fight. The North needs it, and I'm going to give it."

The Lord Commander, unyielding in his stance, rejected the notion. "I will not allow a child, especially one of my blood, beyond the Wall."

Aemon, determined and frustrated, replied, "I frankly don't care. The Night's Watch and the North need every sword they can get. I will fight for them."

"You're a child!" the Lord Commander said with strength.

Aemon, undaunted, retorted, "Aye, I'm a child. A child knows other children."

"Watch your mouth, boy," the Lord Commander said.

"You're all screaming that you wish revenge on your false brothers and to stop the wildlings but won't do anything about it. Right now, you are a child screaming that the rules aren't fair. It's not fair that you have to stay on the Wall while wildings are burning the North, the North you once ruled, and you can't help your son. Right now, we have the chance to do what we can to buy enough time for my grandfather and your son to plan the counter. The Night's Watch needs every man and sword. I am willing to fight."

"I am Lord Commander here, boy. You will stay here. You will go back south with your dragon where it is safe," Lord Commander Stark looked at his decedent with the gray eyes of Stark.

The Lord Commander remained adamant. Aemon, however, reminded him of his royal status. "I'm a prince. While the Night's Watch may not follow the rules and politics of the South, they're still a part of the Seven Kingdoms. As a prince, I will go beyond the Wall, and there's nothing you can do about it."

Balerion roared in agreement, a thunderous proclamation that echoed through Castle Black. The roar made all men flinch as they looked at the skies and ceilings, wondering if the Black Dread would slaughter them all. Aemon reaffirmed his decision.

Aemon, unyielding, proclaimed, "I will go north."

After a tense moment of silence, the Lord Commander locked eyes with Aemon, acknowledging the stubbornness that ran in the veins of Starks. Finally, with a resigned sigh, he conceded, "You're as stubborn as a Stark, with the Wolf's Blood thick in your veins. As f*cking stubborn and Wolf blooded as your mother. I'm going to regret this, but if you get volunteers, you can go."

"I think there would be no shortage of men who want vengeance for the death of their black brothers," Aemon replied with no emotion shown on his face.

The Lord Commander, despite the tensions, decided to temporarily put aside the discussion. "We'll continue this later," he grumbled. "You've ridden far. You must be tired." With a gesture, he motioned for Aemon to follow him. "We'll get an expedition ready, but for now, you should rest." Aemon, still silent, nodded in agreement. The Lord Commander rose from the high table, addressing his Night's Watch brothers. "Continue eating. I'm taking my great-grandson to a room to rest." He led the way out of the mess hall, and Aemon dutifully followed him.

As they walked through the corridors of Castle Black, the Lord Commander's cloak billowing behind him, Aemon observed his great-grandfather in silence. Despite the two generations between them, Aemon's mother and her father before her, Benjen Stark seemed remarkably young and vigorous for his age. The black clothing and the wolf's pelt cloak spoke of strength and capability, traits evident in his tall and muscular form.

Breaking the silence, the Lord Commander pointed to Balerion, looming above them. "A dragon as big as a mountain, black as night. That damn thing is too f*cking big," he remarked. "Why haven't we heard of Lyanna's son claiming the Conqueror's dragon? Such news would spread like wildfire in the North." He glanced at Aemon, awaiting an explanation.

Aemon responded, "I claimed Balerion just a few days ago. The news hasn't had time to spread beyond the walls of this castle."

The Lord Commander's gray eyes bore into Aemon's darker ones as he dissected the timeline. "You claim to have bound with Balerion a few days ago, yet you've been to many castles in that time. Flying on a dragon from one castle to another would take more than a day," he pointed out, a note of skepticism in his voice.

"Right after I mounted Balerion, I set him to the North. We flew off minutes after our bonding, heading straight to the north," he admitted, revealing the clandestine nature of his journey. The Lord Commander raised an eyebrow, noting the secrecy surrounding Aemon's departure. Aemon acknowledged it further, stating he had snuck away in the dead of night to claim Balerion.

The Lord Commander regarded Aemon with a stern expression, his gray eyes scrutinizing the young prince. "Did you not consider visiting your grandfather, Rickon, at Winterfell before rushing to the Wall?" he inquired, curiosity lacing his words.

Aemon responded promptly, "I never had the chance. My priority was to reach the Wall as quickly as possible, to offer whatever help I could against the Wildings."

The Lord Commander's gaze lingered on the boy, his weathered face revealing little emotion. He spoke with an air of authority, "You're but a child, Aemon, too young to concern yourself with the threats beyond the Wall, with battles and wildings."

Aemon, however, held his ground, a determination in his voice. "One is never too young to care about the realm and the people of the North. Duty knows no age."

The Lord Commander remained silent for a moment, his stoic expression unyielding. Eventually, he nodded, acknowledging the conviction in Aemon's words. Lord Commander Benjen Stark led Aemon through the dimly lit corridors of Castle Black, the torches casting dancing shadows on the stone walls. His stern gaze never left the young Targaryen as he continued his inquiry, his questions direct and without hesitation.

"King's Landing, what did you think of it?" he asked, his voice gruff.

Aemon, walking alongside the Lord Commander, replied bluntly, "It smells like sh*t."

A faint hint of amusem*nt flickered in Benjen Stark's eyes, but his demeanor remained serious. "Fair enough," he muttered. "And the Red Keep?"

"Big. Lots of stairs," Aemon responded. His great-grandfather smirked at him. Aemon could tell he preferred Aemon's blunt words more than his long-planned speeches. Aemon may have had too good of a teacher in his wives during his life as Jon Snow.

Lord Commander Benjen Stark listened to Aemon's tales of the Red Keep and the Targaryen family with a reserved expression. The torchlight danced on the walls, casting shadows that seemed to flicker with the boy's words.

"So, you spend time with the king?" Benjen inquired, his voice gruff.

Aemon nodded, his eyes lighting up. "King Jaehaerys is kind. He teaches me about ruling and justice. He says I'll be a great lord one day."

The Lord Commander observed the innocence in the boy's response and couldn't help but feel a pang of concern. "And your family, Aemon? You're close to them?"

Aemon's face took on a thoughtful expression. "Uncle Viserys and Aunt Aemma take care of me the most. They teach me things, and we have fun together. But Rhaenyra, my cousin, always wants to play games, and then we get in trouble."

Benjen Stark let out a low chuckle, finding some familiarity in the dynamics of a family, even one as extraordinary as the Targaryens. "And your aunts?" he pressed, curious about the boy's relationships within the sprawling Targaryen family. Aemon knew he was speaking of King Jaehaerys' daughter, but technically, they were his great-aunts rather than just his aunts.

Aemon's brows furrowed slightly. "They're a year older, and they mostly spend time with Rhaenyra. We go to some classes together, but they're more interested in her since they spend more time with her when they have other lessons with their septa."

"You don't go to lessons with the septa, do you?" the Lord Commander asked, not looking at Aemon.

"No," he replied simply.

"Good, you are of the north. The septs and their septons are of the south, the Andals, lad. You may be born in the south and fly a dragon, but you are a Stark lad. You might not have my name, but you have my blood. True Northmen do not bow to a stone statue of a southern god," he said approvingly, his voice deep and stern.

The Lord Commander continued to lead Aemon through the corridors, contemplating the boy's words. In the midst of the Night's Watch and the icy halls of Castle Black, the stories of the Red Keep and the Targaryen court seemed like distant echoes of another world. The echoes of dragon wings and the scent of stone and mortar seemed to linger in the air as they conversed in the torchlit passages of Castle Black.

"You said Prince Viserys and Princess Aemma take care of you most. What of your father?" Aemon noticed the hint of anger when the lord Commander spoke of Daemon. Aemon did not know if he was angry at Daemon for his mother, Lyanna, passing away or because Daemon could not spend much time with Aemon.

"Kepa is building a new keep, Summerhall. It's going to be his new castle and a second seat for our house," Aemon enlightened.

"Building a new seat for House Targaryen," the Lord Commander mused. "That's a significant endeavor. Your father, Daemon, must be a busy man."

Aemon nodded, a small frown on his young face. "He is, but he tries to find time for me. He flies over to see me, and sometimes Uncle Viserys takes me to Summerhall so I can spend time with him there."

The Lord Commander's expression softened, recognizing the challenges of balancing familial duty with the demands of leadership.

"And what's Daemon like?" Benjen inquired further, curious about the man who was both Aemon's father and the builder of Summerhall.

Aemon's eyes lit up as he spoke of his father. "He's strong and honest. When he says he'll do something, he does it, no matter what others think. Even if Lord Otto dislikes it the most."

The Lord Commander nodded, appreciating the virtues of strength and honesty in a leader. Yet, the mention of tensions within the family caught his attention. "You mentioned Lord Otto Hightower," Benjen observed. "What's the story there?"

Aemon hesitated for a moment, realizing he might have said too much. "Lord Otto doesn't like my father, and my father doesn't like him. They've had disagreements, and they don't see eye to eye on many things."

The Lord Commander raised an eyebrow, sensing the weight of political complexities even within the mighty House Targaryen. "Politics are complicated. Southerners play too many games while women and children starve in the distant north. We don't have the time for their games, lad; we are from the North. There are more important things." Benjen remarked, his voice carrying a hint of understanding.

Aemon's voice echoed in the cold stone corridors of Castle Black as he delved into the intricate dance of tension between his father, Prince Daemon Targaryen, and Lord Otto Hightower. The Lord Commander listened attentively, the shadows dancing along the walls like silent witnesses to the tales being shared.

"Lord Otto and my father," Aemon began, his young voice carrying an air of understanding beyond his years, "they despise each other." The Lord Commander gestured for Aemon to continue, intrigued by the narrative unfolding. "One time," Aemon continued, "my father and Lord Otto crossed paths at a council meeting. Uncle Viserys couldn't make it and asked Kepa to take his place for the meeting. The tension in the room was noticeable, like the calm before a storm. It started with seemingly innocent words, but everyone in the room could feel the underlying tension. They exchanged words, seemingly polite, but every sentence carried hidden meanings and barbs."

"You understood them, what they meant?" the Lord Commander asked, skeptically of a small boy knowing hidden meanings to words that true meanings were opposite than hidden jabs.

"It's easy when you pay attention," Ameon said quickly.

"And how do you have this special magical power when the rest of our blood is as good at it as a fish is at walking?" he asked Aemon.

"I was born in King's Landing," was Aemon's only response. The Lord Commander said nothing for some time as they walked.

Balerion roared, a loud roar as if daring the Wall itself to combat the fire dragon that survived the doom of Vlarian. A roar as if saying that Balerion had survived the heat so hot that even dragons burned, and he would survive a cold so cold that death would freeze over. A roar that made even the gods of death shutter and the gods of war coward in fear. At that moment, Aemon understood why the small folk thought the Targaryens were gods among men, for they rode disaster and destruction itself, fire made flesh, death in mortal bones.

The torchlight flickered in the room as Lord Commander Benjen Stark turned from the window, his gaze meeting Aemon's. "Wolf's Blood runs strong in our family, boy," the Lord Commander remarked, a hint of a smile playing on his weathered face. "Your grandfather has a spirit as untamed as the North itself. The news of you bonding with Balerion, the Black Dread, would undoubtedly light a fire in his eyes." As Balerion's roars echoed through the courtyard, Lord Commander Benjen continued, "He'd throw a grand feast, I have no doubt. The North may be a harsh and unforgiving land, but we know how to celebrate victories. Your grandfather would roar with laughter and lift a horn of mead in your honor. I can imagine the scene," he mused. "Your grandfather would be boasting to every lord and lady about his grandson riding the legendary dragon of Aegon the Conqueror," he said with a wink to Aemon, which made Aemon chuckle.

The Lord Commander's eyes gleamed with a shared understanding of the proud, stubborn nature that defined House Stark. His gray eyes did not leave the large Black Dread. For a faint second, the old man seemed to have smiled before the smile faded into the stoic, icy face of the Stark kings. Aemon knew of his blood, how most were as cold as ice, but a few had the wills of wolves rather than the embodiment of icy winter. Most Starks acted like the winter itself as they were the Kings of Winter, but the few that had the Wolf's Blood were more ferocious and passionate than any man had any right to be, and they also died the soonest.

"He may be gruff and stern, your grandfather, but deep down, he'd be as proud as a dire wolf leading his pack. The Wolf's Blood demands respect, and having the might of Balerion under your command would be a testament to the strength of our house."

Balerion's roars outside seemed to harmonize with the Lord Commander's words, creating a symphony of power and ancient bloodlines within the walls of Castle Black.

Aemon was led to the familiar door of the Lord Commander's chambers. He recalled the bare and minimalistic room. In Jon Snow's time as Lord Commander, the Wall was bare, ruined, and nearly destroyed with cracked walls, and most things had to be repaired with ice due to materializes rarely being fully ready. Aemon could recall the cracks in the walls of the Lord Commander's chambers giving way to the winds as they whistled like the light signs of ghosts telling secrets. But that was as Jon Snow, as Aemon Targaryen the Watch had more men, more materials, and better maintenance.

The Lord Commander's chambers were a stark contrast to the austere conditions typically associated with the Night's Watch. As Aemon entered the room, the scent of burning wood greeted him, emanating from the robust flames in the stone fireplace. The warmth radiating from the hearth provided a stark relief from the cold winds beyond the Wall. The Lord Commander walking towards the flames.

The walls, adorned with the pelts of various animals, spoke of a leader who took pride in his surroundings. The furs were meticulously arranged, creating a rustic yet dignified atmosphere. It was a far cry from the sparse chambers Aemon had known as Jon Snow, a stark improvement brought about by the apparent revitalization of Castle Black.

The Lord Commander, in the process of stoking the fire, threw a couple of logs into the flames. The crackling of burning wood filled the room, a comforting sound that resonated with the newfound vitality within the Night's Watch.

Amid the enhancements, a solitary banner of House Stark hung in the corner, a silent reminder of the Lord Commander's roots and the legacy he carried. The dire wolf sigil, stark against the backdrop, held a prideful place in the chamber, representing the unyielding spirit of House Stark and its enduring connection to the Night's Watch.

As the Lord Commander gestured toward a chair by the hearth, inviting Aemon to take a seat, the room seemed to tell a tale of renewal within the ancient walls of Castle Black.

As Lord Commander Benjen Stark tended to the roaring fireplace, the flames danced, casting flickering shadows that played on the walls adorned with animal pelts. Though still belonging to the Night's Watch, the room carried an air of distinction, a testament to the respect and leadership bestowed upon its current occupant.

The banner of House Stark, solitary but proudly displayed, hung in the corner of the room. It bore the sigil of the dire wolf, the ancient emblem of the North. Aemon's gaze lingered on the banner, a visual reminder of the lineage he shared with the Lord Commander.

"Your grandfather's touch," Lord Commander Benjen remarked, following Aemon's gaze. "He had it sent in and redecorated it when I took the mantle of Lord Commander. The direwolf banner was his way of infusing a bit of the North's strength into these cold walls." As the flames crackled in the hearth, Lord Commander Benjen moved toward a small table, pouring two cups of a steaming liquid that filled the room with the rich aroma of hot, spiced wine. "Sit, Aemon," he invited, gesturing to a couple of sturdy chairs by the fireplace. "It's not every day we have a Targaryen in these chambers. Let's talk, lad. I didn't get many visitors after I swore my vows. Your grandfather sends letters, but that is most of it."

Aemon thought about being led to the Lord Commander's chambers. He recalled his great-grandfather saying he would lead Aemon to chambers for himself. Aemon knew that there had been a King's chambers, made for the crown if they ever visited; they were vacant for Aemon to use. "I-"

"Speak, lad. Let it not be said I ignored the thoughts in my own blood," the Lord Commander commented.

"I thought you were bringing me to mine own chambers, my lord."

"f*cking southerners, so proper that they turn my own blood, calling me my lord instead of grandfather," he mumbled before looking to the flames and taking in a deep breath. Lord Commander Benjen Stark regarded Aemon with a stern yet protective gaze. "Aemon, these are troubled times, and not all who find themselves at the Wall share your noble intent. Your blood ties to King Jaehaerys make you a target for those who hold grudges against the crown."

"And King Jaehaerys ordered most of the keeps in the realms to empty their dungeons and send them to the Wall. It did not help that since the men rebelled," Aemon realized.

The Lord Commander raised his eyes questioningly as he drank the ale down with a single gulp before pouring himself more. "How do you know this, boy?" he asked Aemon.

"I'm the king's cupbearer; I attend the small council meetings," Aemon said evenly.

The lord Commander nodded his head in understanding. He gestured towards the lone bed in the room. "This chamber is more secure than most, and I can personally see to your safety. I've seen enough in my years to know that even the sworn brothers of the Night's Watch aren't always free from treachery. That same treaty in the last mutiny killed the previous Lord Commander and allowed me to be voted in." Sipping from his cup of spiced ale, the Lord Commander continued, "I'll not have you endangered while you're under our roof. It's a precaution, Aemon, and one I hope you understand. We're dealing with more than just wildings and deserters these days. Besides, I feel I need to protect the men from themselves more than protect you from them."

Aemon frowned; the warmth of the fires did little to stop the chill of the news. "Is it because of the dragon?" he asked, glancing toward the darkened skies where Balerion stood guard over Castle Black.

The Lord Commander's gaze remained steady. "Partly. Your dragon's presence has its own challenges. We need to be vigilant. But it's also because of you, Aemon. The North is harsh, and I won't have you wandering around unguarded."

Aemon took another sip, contemplating the Lord Commander's words. "I can take care of myself," he declared, his voice carrying the stubbornness of youth.

Lord Commander Benjen Stark chuckled. "No doubt you believe that, but even Targaryens need a bit of guidance. And in times like these, the Night's Watch looks out for its own, regardless of name or bloodline. Besides, you're still a child."

The two talked for hours, deep into the night. The older man did not have much time to speak to his true kin, and Aemon had not spent much time among the Starks since his life as Jon Snow. Lord Commander Stark spoke to Aemon of stories of Lyanna when she was a girl and of other stories of his grandfather and his mother's uncle, Bennard Stark. And with those talks, Aemon fell asleep, and for the first time in a long time, the dreams were not of dead men and lost loved ones.

As Aemon Targaryen drifted into the realm of dreams, he found himself transported to a distant and otherworldly North. The landscape unfolded before him, vast and unexplored, shrouded in a blanket of pristine snow. The air was frigid, each breath he took turning into a visible puff in the icy atmosphere.

In this dream, Aemon was not himself; he was a creature of the wilderness, a dire wolf prowling through the silent woods. The scent of pine, earth, and the crisp cold air enveloped him as he navigated the snow-covered terrain. His senses were acute, and the world appeared in shades of silver and blue under the moonlit sky.

The dream unfolded like a vivid tapestry, leading the dire wolf version of Aemon through the snowy expanse until he encountered a majestic stag, its antlers crowned with frost. The stag's breath formed clouds in the wintry night as it grazed in the moonlit glade.

Driven by instinct, the dire wolf launched into a swift and silent pursuit. The chase was an intricate dance between predator and prey, the dire wolf's powerful strides matched by the stag's graceful leaps through the snow-covered forest. Eventually, the dire wolf closed the distance and sprang into the air, jaws snapping shut on the stag's vulnerable neck.

Blood sprayed forth in crimson arcs, and the taste of iron filled the dire wolf's mouth as it clamped down, securing its hard-earned meal. The forest around them seemed to hold its breath; the only sounds were the crunching of snow beneath the dire wolf's paws and the fading heartbeat of the vanquished stag.

Aemon, as the dire wolf, devoured the stag with a primal hunger, the metallic tang of blood lingering on his tongue. The dream was a visceral journey into the heart of the North, a world where the line between man and beast blurred beneath the silver glow of the moon. As the dream continued, Aemon would navigate this wilderness, guided by instincts older than the Wall itself. Aemon woke up, and when he put his finger to his lips, he saw blood on his fingertips coming from his mouth, the mouth of a dire wolf in the form of a man.

It took an entire day for the force to be assembled to go beyond the Wall. The men watched vengeance for the brothers who died from the previous mutinies. Too many had died, and they would not have the criminals survive for their treason. Aemon did part of the convincing, but no man would listen to a child no older than half a decade, but the few that did convince the rest not for the realm to prosper and fight wildlings but for violence for the brothers that were killed. The following day, the men were ready, not truly ready for a long journey, but vengeance was a good motivator, and the men got ready as quickly as possible.

The group assembled at Castle Black, a formidable force of six hundred brothers of the Night's Watch, led by Aemon's great-grandfather, Lord Commander Stark. The courtyard buzzed with activity as the men prepared for the perilous journey beyond the Wall. Aemon, now on foot, felt the absence of Balerion's towering presence. The dragon remained at the Wall, a silent guardian. Aemon knew that if some Wildlings came south to the Wall, some hoe escaping the party going north, Balerion would be a good deterrent for them to think about climbing while most of the brothers were beyond the Wall.

The seasoned veterans and green recruits alike exchanged wary glances, their faces painted with a mix of determination and uncertainty. The colossal shadow of the Wall loomed behind them, a constant reminder of the perilous journey that lay ahead. More than half of the fighting force of Castle Black would come. Five hundred men would make it even against the deserters, and another hundred gave them a strong advantage, especially since the brothers who had stayed loyal to the Watch were the more experienced fighters and soldiers rather than the criminal cutthroats who started the mutinies and escaped.

Lord Commander Benjen Stark stepped forward, a stern figure in his black cloak. Lord Commander Stark addressed the men, his voice carrying the weight of experience and authority. "Brothers, today we march north to deal with the threat that lurks beyond the Wall! This is no ordinary mission," Lord Commander Stark continued. "We go to rid ourselves of those who betrayed us, to eliminate a threat that could compromise our defenses. We march for the North, for the Wall, for the realms of men. We are the sword in the darkness, the watchers of the Wall, the shield that guards the realms of men! What say you!"

"For the Watch!" they replied. Balerion roared loudly as if he was warning the lands beyond the Wall not to dare and harm his rider, for if they did, he would show it why he was named the Black Dread.

The men, clad in the black garb of the Night's Watch, stood ready for the challenging journey ahead. Aemon, among them, felt a mix of anxiety and determination. He knew the risks involved but also understood the urgency of their mission.

Chapter 12: Beyond the Wall

Summary:

Aemon Targaryen, alongside his great-grandfather, the Lord Commander, march across the Wall and fight against the diesters at Osric's Keep.

Notes:

Thank you for reading; please comment and vote on the story. I would love some feedback. I can only improve my work or change something if I get critiques and comments from the people reading it. I want to do this justice and ensure I am doing right by one of my favorite TV shows and book series.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Beyond the Wall 102 AC

Aemon Targaryen

As the gates of Castle Black creaked open, the group set forth into the unforgiving lands beyond the Wall, a vast and treacherous wilderness that held both ancient secrets and imminent dangers. The wind howled through the icy landscape, and the men pressed forward, united by a common purpose – to face the unknown and protect the realm from the looming threat of the Wildlings.

The snow-covered terrain stretched endlessly, the winds biting into their faces as they ventured northward. The air was thin, and the cold seemed to seep into their bones, into their flesh, and into their souls. Aemon had missed this, even if he never said it aloud. This was the true North, a north that in another life, if all the kingdoms did not bow to him and support him against Greyworm, then he would have more than likely been sent here to spend the rest of his days. As the next King Beyond the Wall, the same title he now would need to fight against for the second time, or rather, the first time in his life. He only got a little chance to prioritize his time in the North before riding for the Wall.

He felt the winds and the cold that were so familiar to him that he felt more at peace in it than any heart could ever do. But something felt right when taking the horse beyond the Wall, the North beyond the North. It was as though in King's Landing, in both lives, he had lived underwater; he had grown used to the restriction that being submerged underwater had given him, but now, beyond the Wall, he felt as though he had finally come to land once more and had been brought to where he was supposed to be. The kingdoms were restricting the real North; it had space, a freedom that the rules south of the Wall could not replicate.

The biting winds and falling snow created an otherworldly landscape as the party ventured deeper into the frozen expanse beyond the Wall. Aemon, wrapped in layers of furs and clad in the black attire of the Night's Watch, felt the cold seeping into his bones. Memories of his previous life as Jon Snow mingled with the stark beauty of the northern wilderness.

Aemon, astride his steed, ventured into the unforgiving realm beyond the Wall, where a pristine tapestry of driven snow and ancient forests unfolded before him. The land blanketed in a glistening shroud of white, sparkled under the touch of the pale sun that struggled to penetrate the thick canopy of evergreen sentinels. Towering pines, their branches laden with snow, whispered secrets to the northern winds, their stoic presence standing as silent witnesses to centuries of untold tales.

The wind, a constant companion beyond the Wall, danced through the icy air with a haunting melody, carrying with it the whispers of the wild. It swirled around Aemon, tugging at his cloak and tousling his unruly hair, a reminder that he was a mere mortal in the face of the ancient and untamed beauty that surrounded him. The cold, crisp air, laced with the scent of pine and the distant promise of adventure, invigorated his senses.

As dawn broke on the horizon, the eastern sky painted itself in hues of pink and orange, casting a warm glow upon the icy canvas below. Clouds, like wisps of pink cotton, caught fire in the light of the awakening sun, transforming the heavens into a celestial masterpiece. Aemon's gaze lingered on the breathtaking spectacle, a fleeting moment of serenity in a world fraught with conflict.

For Aemon, these northern lands were more than a wilderness; they were a refuge. Here, beyond the Wall, he felt a profound connection to a world unburdened by the politics and machinations of the South. The simplicity of survival, the raw beauty of the landscape, and the untamed spirit of the wild made him feel alive in ways that the complexities of the Seven Kingdoms never could.

Yet, with every breath of the brisk northern air, Aemon knew that his time in this untouched paradise was finite. Duty and destiny awaited him south of the Wall, and the bittersweet beauty of the North beyond the Wall would forever remain etched in his heart, a fleeting respite in the tumultuous saga of his life.

They pressed forward for four days and nights, the North revealing its harsh but captivating essence. Aemon marveled at the untamed beauty of the snow-covered terrain and the ever-present threat that lingered in the cold air.

As the party approached the elusive keep, only a day's ride away with all six hundred men following, Aemon, fueled by strategic foresight, persuaded his great-grandfather, Lord Commander Stark, to allow a small scouting party ahead. He argued that his small stature and agility would make him less conspicuous, allowing for a stealthy reconnaissance.

Though reluctant to send a boy into potential danger, the Lord Commander acknowledged the validity of Aemon's reasoning. With cautious approval, Aemon and three seasoned men ventured ahead, their destination a mysterious keep looming on the horizon. The main party trailed behind, leaving the small scouting party to explore the secrets that awaited them at the world's edge.

As they neared the keep, hidden amidst the harsh northern landscape, Aemon felt a mixture of anticipation and uncertainty. The small scouting party moved with caution, navigating through the snow-laden landscape. Aemon, though a mere six years old, carried a determination and wisdom beyond his years. The Lord Commander's decision to allow him this task spoke of his trust in his abilities.

The keep emerged on the horizon, a dark silhouette against the snowy expanse. Aemon signaled for his men to halt, his keen eyes scanning the surroundings for any signs of movement. They approached quietly, their steps muffled by the thick snow underfoot.

As Aemon and his small scouting party approached Osric's Keep, the name of Craster's before it was taken by the Wildling himself, even if Aemon could neither confirm nor deny it with the books at the Night's Watch, the eerie atmosphere of the haunted forest added a layer of tension to their journey. He recalled Craster giving his sons to the Others in this forest, and whenever he blinked, he swore he could see the blue eyes looking back at him.

The keep, perched atop a low hill, was surrounded by an earthen dike, with at least one gate granting access on the southwest side. The gate itself, adorned with the skulls of a bear and a ram, hinted at the grim atmosphere within.

A stream ran around the hill's north end, creating a natural barrier. Inside the dike, various structures revealed Craster's abode's crude but functional nature. A midden heap, a pigsty, and a sheepfold formed a makeshift settlement within the forest.

The keep itself was a daub-and-wattle hall constructed with logs and roofed with sod. It sprawled low and long, accommodating thirty to fifty men at best. The entrance to the hall consisted of two flaps of deer hide, offering a meager barrier to the elements and any unwelcome visitors. However, due to the revisions, the walls, ditches, small camps, and huts were made around the main keep. Crude wooden walls made of giant log spikes made an enactment with several openings that Aemond guessed were made to funnel enemies through to fight on the deserter's terms rather than keep them out completely.

A single room within the hall lacked windows, emphasizing the desolation of the surroundings. Above, two splintery ladders could access a sleeping loft, providing a vantage point that could be advantageous for defense or escape. Aemon thought of just starting a fire to burn things down but quickly thought against it. He needed a good location for a fire to grow strong enough to draw attention to it and allow for any future fires to be made, and he noticed the tents were too far from one another to catch all on fire at once. The winds were not strong enough to carry the fires from one tent to the next, and the men would act quickly since they were on high alert and knew the Night's Watch would be coming. Only those with higher numbers than the invading party would have their guards low enough to do such things.

The pair of four divided into two groups as they snuck around the keep, trying to avoid the eyes of the deserters. Aemon was paired with a taller man with golden brown hair, a beard, and a comely face, too pretty for the Night's Watch. Aemon had thought him a male whor* at first; commoners rarely keep their appearances this well otherwise, especially men.

Aemon and Jonothor Flowers, a bastard son of a Tyrell bastard, moved stealthily through the shadows, trying to glean as much information as possible about the inhabitants of Osric's Keep. The murmur of the haunted forest masked the crunch of snow beneath their boots; they ventured cautiously around the crude structures.

As they approached the hall, they noted the flickering glow of a feeble fire escaping through the gaps in the daub-and-wattle walls. A low hum of conversation could be heard, though the words were indistinct. The skulls decorating the gate were a stark reminder of the harsh reality within.

Jonothor and Aemon counted sentries and gauged the general size of the force within. They moved with the practiced silence of those who had spent years beyond the Wall, adapting to the perils of the wild. Jonothor Flowers, despite being a bastard, proved himself a capable companion, ready to face whatever dangers lay ahead.

The moans and humping sounds echoed through the keep as they made it inside one of the rooms, a macabre symphony of violence and violation. The Night's Watch deserters must have run into a group of wildings and, after killing the men, took the women for themselves. Around them lay the lifeless bodies of a hundred wildings, their fate sealed by the black-clad deserters. The ground was stained with blood, a stark testament to the unfolding savagery. Amid the carnage, Wildling women, survivors of the massacre, were subjected to further torment.

Aemon's stomach churned as he witnessed the atrocity unfold. A Night's Watch deserter, clad in the black garb of his order, was ruthlessly violating a wildling woman by a hearth. The grotesque scene played out before the eyes of the young Targaryen and Jonothor Flowers. Aemon said as the nude woman was raped and her bare tit* jiggled with each thrust, tears streaming down her face, and whimpers escaped her lips.

As the duo stumbled upon the grotesque scene, Aemon's young heart felt rage and sorrow. The cold air seemed to freeze the landscape, and the horrified gasps caught in Aemon's throat.

The iniquity of the Night's Watch deserters was laid bare, a grim tableau of violence and violation. Aemon's small hand clutched the hilt of his dagger, a surge of anger coursing through him. Jonothor Flowers attempted to draw Aemon away from the gruesome spectacle, perhaps thinking to shield the young prince from the harsh realities beyond the Wall.

Yet, Aemon stood his ground, his resolve unyielding. The mission remained, and he wouldn't allow the horrors before him to deter him from the task at hand. The black-clad deserter, lost in his brutal act, was oblivious to the pair observing from the shadows.

As Aemon emerged from the concealment of some barrels that he and Jonothor were hiding behind, he clamped his hand down on the young Targaryen's shoulder, restraining him. "Hold, princling. Our duty is to observe and report, not to intervene," Jonothor insisted, his voice a low, urgent whisper.

Aemon's grip tightened on the hilt of the sword provided by the Night Watch steel sword that hung at his side without drawing it out. "We can't just stand by and let that happen," Aemon muttered, his breath visible in the frigid air.

Jonothor, much taller and older than Aemon looked the boy in the eyes, and placed a restraining hand on Aemon's arm, his voice low and urgent. "Our mission is to scout, not to play heroes. We're here for information, not to intervene in their bloody affairs."

Aemon's eyes blazed with defiance as he met Jonothor's gaze. "I won't stand by while such things happen, even beyond the Wall," he asserted, his voice carrying a steely resolve.

Aemon's gaze locked with Jonothor's, a clash of determination and duty. "I won't let harm come to her. Not if I can do something about it."

"f*cking royalty! You can't save everyone. We're outnumbered, and our best chance is to stay hidden," Jonothor reasoned, his eyes narrowing in the dim light. "If we blow our cover now, it won't just be her life at stake."

"But you swore an oath to protect the realm from all dangers, and that includes protecting those who can't defend themselves. If you won't uphold it, I will," Aemon argued, his voice tense.

Jonothor sighed, torn between loyalty and practicality. "There's a greater picture. Lives might be lost if we act impulsively. We're here to gather intelligence and get back to your great-grandfather."

Aemon looked at him defiantly. "That man killed your black brothers; you should want to fight him with your own hands. The Night's Watch is an honorable calling, and its vows are to protect. Even if you don't follow the words of your oath, some of us will even if we haven't sworn them."

Jonothor sighed, recognizing the stubborn determination in the young prince. "Your honor is going to be the death of you, prince," he warned, but Aemon had already decided.

Ignoring Jonothor's caution, Aemon pressed forward toward the scene of horror. The deserter, preoccupied with his vile actions, took notice of the approaching figure. "Who's there?" he called out, suspicion tainting his words. Aemon stepped into view, his black attire revealing his allegiance to the Night's Watch. The deserter, momentarily puzzled, squinted at the young boy.Aemon walked forward towards the hearth, the crackling burning wood. Aemon touched one of the prods for the flames and played with the handle. "You're a bit young for a brother, aren't you?" he remarked, his tone mocking.

Aemon's piercing gaze met the deserter's eyes, a silent challenge. The haunting echoes of the haunted forest surrounded them, and Aemon's next words held an air of unwavering conviction as he grabbed the handle that's point was still in the flames. "Old enough to know when to stop such acts," he declared, his voice cutting through the chilling silence of the small room inside Osric's Keep.

The man drew his sword and went to strike at Aemon. Aemon had fought in such close quarters a few times before and had learned one thing from the fights. Aemon never drew his sword. No. He would never do such a thing. The man rushed forward, and while drawing his sword, the room's quarters and confined space worked against him. While drawing the blade out, the blade hit a wall and stopped it in its tracks. Panic crept into his eyes as the weapon got entangled in a net that hung on the wall before he could unleash a deadly swing toward the young Targaryen.

Aemon, quick-witted and sensing the urgency, seized the opportunity. He lunged forward with the metal prod still aglow from the hearth's heat, aiming for the man's eye socket. The prod found its mark with a sizzling sound, penetrating the eye socket and into the skull. The deserter grunted twice, the breaths deep and laborious, before succumbing to death. Aemon stood there, his small form surrounded by the haunting silence of the keep, the deed done in defense of the Wildling woman.

The aftermath of Aemon's first kill hung heavily in the air. Aemon and Jonothor, shared a silent moment of acknowledgment. Jonothor, wise to the weight of the situation, asked Aemon if he was all right, but the young Targaryen remained silent, his gaze fixed on the lifeless deserter. Aemon disliked killing, Jon Snow despised it, he was good at it. But not everyone liked what they were good at.

Their moment of reflection was abruptly interrupted as another deserter, fueled by madness, screamed and charged at them. Jonothor, his eyes hardened by the grim reality of their situation, swiftly intervened as the remaining deserter charged toward them, his desperate screams echoing through the confines of the keep. With deft movements, Jonothor parried the assailant's strike, redirecting the momentum of the attack. Now off balance, the deserter stumbled forward, vulnerable to Jonothor's decisive countermove.

A knife appeared in Jonothor's hand, and with a well-aimed strike to the back of the deserter's neck, he brought a swift end to the threat. The dying man's screams were abruptly silenced, leaving only the haunting silence to fill the room.

The echoes of the slain deserter's screams had barely faded when a cacophony of approaching footsteps reached Aemon and Jonothor's ears. The harsh reality of their predicament set in as they understood that more deserters were converging on their location.

Panicking, Aemon and Jonothor exchanged a determined glance, silently communicating the urgency of their escape. Without wasting a moment, they sprinted through the crude hallways of Osric's Keep, the uneven ground beneath their feet adding an extra layer of challenge to their flight.

As they raced through the dimly lit confines, Jonothor skillfully dispatched three more deserters who attempted to intercept them. His combat style's swift, brutal efficiency was a stark reminder of the harsh nature of life Beyond the Wall.Aemon watched as Jonothor slashed at the back of the leg of an aggressor and, while the man was falling to his knees, stabbed his dagger into the man's eyes. While the technique was not similar to his, Aemon, for a fleeting second, could see the shape of Ser Alliser Thorne as Jonothor fought with brutal efficiency.

Finally, the other two Night's Watch brothers who had initially joined Aemon and Jonothor on the scouting mission caught up with them, their breaths heavy and faces etched with concern. The small group continued their desperate escape, leaving the haunting silence of Osric's Keep behind them as they sought refuge with the larger party of Night's Watch brothers waiting just a little ways out.

The metallic tang of blood filled the air as Jonothor and the Night's Watch brothers engaged in a brutal melee with the approaching deserters. Each swing and parry echoed through the cold air, the clash of steel against steel and the agonized cries of the wounded painting a gruesome symphony.

Jonothor, a formidable force in the chaos, skillfully danced between strikes, his blade carving through the air with deadly precision. His movements were a lethal ballet, dispatching foes with calculated efficiency.Aemon was far more talented with a blade. However, it was clear that in any showing of speed and strength, if he was not able to see their swings far before they were swung, he would have died many times before.

While bold, the other two Night's Watchmen that accompanied Aemon and Jonothor were not untouched by the ferocity of the skirmish, sustaining wounds in the struggle against their less-skilled adversaries. The pair took the lives of two other deserters, but the wounds they sustained from their skirmishes would hinder them if more were to come.

Amid the chaotic clash, Jonothor found himself surrounded by two particularly aggressive deserters. The tide seemed to turn against him as their blades closed in. Then, Aemon sprang into action, fueled by a surge of desperation.

Leaping onto the back of one of the assailants, Aemon drove his dagger into the man's exposed neck. The blade sliced through flesh, creating a gory arc that painted Aemon's face in a mask of crimson. Blood dripped from the dagger as Aemon pulled it free, leaving the lifeless deserter crumpled to the ground. The brief reprieve allowed Jonothor to regain his footing, the tide of the skirmish once again teetering on the brink. Jonothor smiled as he could now focus on the other aggressor.

The air was filled with the clash of steel as Aemon faced a hulking deserter, a brute of a man whose laughter echoed through the cold air. The man seized Aemon, lifting him effortlessly off the ground before slamming him down with brutal force. Gasping for breath, Aemon scrambled to his feet, determination burning in his young eyes.

Drawing his small sword, Aemon faced his towering adversary. The undeterred man charged forward with a sad*stic grin, the clash of their swords ringing out like a morbid melody. Aemon's skill was undeniable, a dance of precision and finesse, but the cruel reality of age and strength favored the grown deserter.

The blades met in a flurry of slashes and parries, Aemon desperately trying to anticipate the man's movements. Each strike from the brute felt like a sledgehammer, Aemon's smaller frame unable to match the sheer force. Despite his tactical awareness, Aemon's skill was eclipsed by the overwhelming difference in strength and speed.

The struggle was a mismatch, and Aemon's efforts seemed futile. The man disarmed the young Targaryen with a cruel chuckle, leaving him defenseless. The deserters' sword hovered menacingly, poised to cut Aemon down. At that moment, it became apparent that skill alone could not bridge the gap between a seasoned warrior and a determined but physically overmatched child.

In the chaos of the fray, the other members of the Night's Watch struggled valiantly against the surging tide of deserters. The sounds of clashing steel, grunts, and desperate cries filled the air, creating a cacophony of battle that echoed through the wilderness.

As Aemon's comrades fought bravely, their resistance began to crumble under the sheer weight of numbers. The death toll rose, the carnage unfolding in the shadow of the imposing Osric's Keep. One by one, Aemon's comrades fell, their valiant efforts met with ruthless brutality from the relentless deserters.

A sword slashed for his skull, and Aemon barely dodged the lethal blow to his head. Aemon, his young face smeared with blood from the cut across his left eye, dodged a killing blow that narrowly missed its mark once more. The sharp blade left a crimson trail on the side of his face, obscuring his vision as blood continued to flow freely. The blood was gushing and dripping down his face like a red river. The young Targaryen, now partially blinded, faced imminent danger from the same merciless deserter who had struck him. The strike starting above his eye and down his face.

The biting wind whistled through the desolate landscape as Aemon clashed swords with the Night's Watch deserter in the unforgiving darkness, in the shadows just outside Osric's Keep. The dance of steel and snowflakes played out in a macabre symphony, each parry and thrust a testament to the life-or-death struggle in the frozen wilderness. Aemon could see the strikes coming, but he was far too slow to act on them or dodge them. He could see the man's mistakes but could do nothing to capitalize on it. The man went for a feint towards Aemon's stomach, and Aemon went for the strike; he realized it was a feint before the man changed the direction of his strike, but Aemon would not be able to block the strike either way. During the chaos, a lethal swing aimed at Aemon's head threatened to end his fight prematurely.

Yet, in the nick of time, Jonothor Flowers displayed a warrior's foresight. With a swift and decisive motion, Jonothor cut down the two assailants before him, before Aemon's aggressor even made the feint, and rushed into the battle, saving Aemon from the imminent strike. Rushing to his prince's side, he attempted to repel the relentless deserter. A desperate clash ensued, steel meeting steel in a desperate struggle for survival. However, the deserter, with a display of brutal strength, blocked Jonothor's strike, overpowering him and forcing both blades to the frozen ground. Seizing the opportunity, the deserter delivered a savage punch to Jonothor's face, sending him reeling backward. In that fleeting moment of vulnerability, the deserter plunged his blade into Jonothor's stomach before the blade was taken out, and the aggressor used it to cut Jonothor's throat.

Aemon forced himself forward to fight the large brute of a man. Then, he blocked several of Aemon's strikes and then, overhead, punched Aemon to the ground to his knees. Aemon tried to get up, but the man kicked Aemon down. Aemon tried to get up once more, but the man rushed forward and kneed Aemon in the head, leaving the boy dazed.

Aemon, lying on the ground with a dagger clutched in his small hand, prepared for the inevitable onslaught of the remaining deserters. The cold air of the North hung heavy with the scent of blood, and the chilling realization of impending doom gripped Aemon's heart. His slashed face oozed blood, staining the snow beneath him.

As the deserters closed in, hungry for the kill, a sudden disturbance came from the winter snow. Like a specter of death, a massive figure lunged from the shadows. A great white shape, fierce and powerful, struck with deadly precision. The creature tore into the throat of the nearest deserter, crimson spurting out in a grisly display.

With terrifying speed and strength, the enigmatic figure moved to the next target, ripping an arm clean off with a savage swipe. A scream like no other echoed outside Osric's Keep. The once-confident deserters now recoiled in fear, witnessing their comrades fall prey to an unseen force. Aemon, still on the ground, gazed wide-eyed at the creature that had emerged to defend him.

The great white shadow continued its relentless assault, ruthlessly dismantling the remaining seven deserters around Aemon. The air was filled with the sounds of desperate cries, the clash of steel, and the gruesome tearing of flesh. Aemon, spared from the brink of death, marveled at the mysterious savior who had intervened on his behalf. The snowy battlefield became chaos, with the white creature weaving a dance of death amidst the blood-stained snow. Every time someone tried to strike, the creature disappeared into the snow as if it was a part of itself. But Aemon could make out the shape of a wolf. No, it was too large to be a regular wolf. A dire wolf.

The dire wolf, majestic and imposing, stood guard over Aemon, its fur as pristine as freshly fallen snow and eyes ablaze with an otherworldly red hue. Towering at nearly five feet, the creature exuded an aura of silent menace; it kept a snarling face that resonated with the pinnacle of animalistic fear despite the absence of sound from the creature, as if thesound itself died when the wolf wished it to. The young prince recognized his loyal companion as the dire wolf positioned itself protectively before Aemon, a formidable barrier against the surrounding danger.

"Ghost," Aemon whispered in both awe and relief. The dire wolf, Jon Snow's faithful companion, had come to his aid. The bond forged in the frigid wilderness of the North had endured, and Ghost's silent presence spoke volumes about the strength of their connection. Aemon's gratitude swelled as he felt the dire wolf's protective stance, a living shield against the encroaching threats.

The remaining deserters, now faced with the supernatural guardian, hesitated. Fear danced in their eyes as they assessed the dire wolf's lethal potential. Ghost's snarls, though unheard, reverberated in the air like a chilling symphony of warning. Aemon wounded and bloodied but alive, watched as the dire wolf held its ground, a silent sentinel in the face of danger.

The dire wolf, Ghost, moved like a phantom on the battlefield, his once white fur now stained with the blood of those foolish enough to challenge him. The scene unfolded in a gruesome ballet of violence as Ghost's crimson eyes glowed with an otherworldly intensity. His powerful jaws, adorned with the viscera of his fallen foes, struck terror into the hearts of the remaining deserters.

Aemon, though battered and bloodied, felt an odd sense of reassurance as Ghost single-handedly dismantled the would-be assailants. The dire wolf moved with a grace that defied his immense size; each strike a lethal dance that left the battlefield littered with the remnants of those who dared to defy the fearsome creature.

The remaining deserters that surrounded Aemon, now witnessing the carnage wrought by Ghost, hesitated in their advance. Fear etched across their faces as they realized the futility of challenging this mythical beast. The dire wolf, ever protective of his charge, stood as a formidable guardian, a living testament to the supernatural forces that lurked in the North.

As the dust settled, Ghost stood proudly over the fallen, a silent sentinel with eyes that bore witness to the primal chaos of battle. Aemon, still on the ground, met the gaze of the dire wolf, gratitude and understanding passing between them. In the cold North, where magic and reality intertwined, Ghost had become the unlikely savior of a Targaryen prince.

Several deserters were ready to attack again; while the entire camp had not yet awakened to know of Aemon and the Night's Watch intruding into their keep, the few that had mobilized were now surrounding Aemon and Ghost. Two men with swords set to inch close enough to draw Ghost's attention as three archers readied themselves behind Ghost to fire an arrow once Ghost was fully distracted. They were about to execute their plan when they heard screams from the southern forests.

The distant roar grew louder as the Night's Watch, six hundred brothers, thundered toward the besieged keep. The Night's Watch, six hundred strong, marched with the determination of men defending their honor and purpose. Swords unsheathed, they advanced against the chaotic backdrop of the haunted forest. The deserters, desperate and outnumbered, fought with a ferocity born of survival.

Aemon, still on the ground, witnessed the approaching tide of black-clad brothers. The clash between the Night's Watch and the deserters unfolded chaotically, with a symphony of steel against steel and the cries of men echoing through the frozen air. Ghost, ever vigilant, stood beside Aemon as the two forces collided in a cacophony of violence.

The Night's Watch, fueled by the dire wolf's unexpected intervention and the desperate need to eliminate the threat of the deserters, fought with an enthusiasm that bordered on recklessness. Their black cloaks billowed in the wind as they surged forward, blades drawn, ready to reclaim the honor of the Night's Watch that the traitorous few had tarnished.

The deserters, caught off guard by the sudden onslaught, scrambled to form a defense. Their once-confident demeanor gave way to panic as the numerical advantage they once enjoyed diminished under the relentless assault of the Night's Watch.

The battle waged on, each clash of swords and each desperate cry for mercy painting the snow-covered landscape with the brutality of men at war. Ghost, the silent harbinger of retribution, continued to weave through the chaos, his massive form a specter of death that haunted the deserters' every move.

The battlefield was a chaotic dance of clashing steel and desperate cries. Aemon, his vision obscured by the blood that covered his left eye, fought alongside Ghost, the dire wolf's silent presence adding an air of terror to the Night's Watch onslaught.

Aemon's small frame moved with surprising agility and determination. He parried a deserter's strike with his sword, the clash of metal ringing through the frozen air. In tandem, Ghost lunged at another assailant, tearing through armor and flesh with a primal ferocity.

Each step Aemon took was measured, and his movements were a dance of survival. Ghost, a spectral force of nature, moved with lethal grace, dispatching foes with a single-minded determination to protect his young companion.

Ghost, a blur of fur and fangs, lunged into the fray with a primal savagery. His massive jaws clamped onto limbs, tearing sinew and bone with brutal efficiency. Limbs were ripped from bodies, as the silent wolf ripped the throats of deserters out from their necks. The scent of blood and fur mingled in the frigid air as Ghost moved with predatory grace, leaving a trail of maimed foes in his wake.

Beside his faithful companion, Aemon danced amidst the chaos, his sword gleaming in the light of the campfires and hearths Swift and lethal, he dispatched wounded enemies with relentless precision, his dagger finding its mark in the vulnerable gaps of armor.

Deserters, fueled by desperation, fought back with a grim determination. Swords clashed, and bodies fell on both sides. Aemon, with Ghost by his side, remained a focal point in the maelstrom. His dagger found the mark on a deserter's thigh, crippling him, and Ghost's massive jaws closed around the arm of another, rendering him defenseless.

The tide of battle swung back and forth, the combatants locked in a struggle that transcended mortal conflicts. Aemon, despite his youth, fought with a resilience that defied his age, and his every move was a testament to his dire circ*mstances.

A Night's Watchman, skilled with a battle-axe, swung his weapon precisely, cleaving through a deserter's helmet and sending him sprawling to the ground as his head was spit in two. Another Night's Watchman, armed with a spear, thrust it forward, piercing through a deserter's armor and leaving him gasping for breath.

As the battle unfolded, Ghost moved among the combatants like a phantom, his white fur stained with the blood of the fallen. His teeth found purchase on the throat of a deserter, and the man's gurgled screams joined the cacophony of war.

The Night's Watch fought with a discipline honed by years of training at the Wall. A swordsman parried a deserter's strike, retaliating with a swift thrust that found its mark. Nearby, an archer from the Night's Watch released a volley of arrows, felling two deserters attempting a flanking maneuver.

Deserter and Night's Watchman locked in struggles, blades biting into flesh, and the agony of the fallen filled the air. Ghost continued his silent assault, dispatching deserters with ruthless efficiency.

Despite the overwhelming odds, the deserters fought fiercely, fueled by desperation and a desire to escape the noose that awaited them. A deserter, wielding a mace, swung it savagely, smashing through the defenses of a Night's Watchman and leaving him crumpled on the icy ground.

In one corner of the skirmish, a veteran of the Night's Watch, clad in worn black leather, faced off against a deserter wielding a crude axe. Their swords clashed in a discordant symphony, sparks flying as each blow sought to find its mark. With a sudden lunge, the Night's Watchman drove his blade through the deserter's abdomen, the spurt of blood mingling with the unforgiving snow beneath.

Further along the frigid battlefield, an archer from the Night's Watch skillfully nocked an arrow and let it loose, the projectile whistling through the air before finding its target—a deserter caught in the midst of raising his sword. The arrow embedded itself in the deserter's throat, and he crumpled to the ground, a gurgled death rattle escaping his lips.

Amidst the chaos, two warriors grappled in a merciless dance, both armed with spears. The cold steel clashed with a metallic resonance, each combatant desperately vying for dominance. In a sudden twist of fate, the Night's Watchman expertly thrust his spear through the deserter's chest, the lethal point emerging from his back as life drained from his eyes.

Elsewhere, a deserting brother swung a heavy club, the brutal weapon connecting with the shield of a Night's Watch defender. The clang of metal echoed in the frosty night as the two locked in a grim struggle. With a swift maneuver, the Night's Watchman disarmed the deserter, and a fatal swing of his sword cleaved through the air, severing the deserter's arm before finding its mark in his throat.

On another front, a desperate deserting ranger grappled with a Night's Watch recruit, their bodies entangled in the snowy battlefield. The ranger, fueled by desperation, managed to draw a concealed dagger and plunged it into the side of the recruit, leaving him gasping for breath as crimson stained the pristine snow.

As Aemon pressed forward, his dagger found its mark in the side of a deserter attempting to flank him. The man howled in pain, only to meet Ghost's savage retaliation, his throat torn open in a crimson spray. Aemon's blade found its next target, a quick slash across the chest of a deserter who underestimated the young Targaryen.

A pair of deserters closed in on a lone Night's Watchman, only to find themselves ensnared in Ghost's relentless onslaught. The dire wolf lunged with primal fury, tearing into the throat of one deserter while Aemon swiftly blocked a strike heading to his head twisted his wrist, and directed the blade away from the pair before Aemon rushed forward with the dagger and stabbed it into the man's chest. Aemon did not wait long as he rushed through the battle with Ghost right beside him.

A trio of deserters attempted to flank a Night's Watch archer positioned on higher ground. Anticipating the threat, Ghost bounded into action, his powerful jaws clamping down on the arm of one deserter, disarming him in a spray of crimson. Seizing the opportunity, the Night's Watchmen unleashed a barrage of arrows, each finding its mark in the hearts of the remaining deserters. As Aemon cut down an unsuspecting deserter who planned to strike the archer from behind.

In a brutal skirmish near the edge of the battlefield, a deserter wielding a wickedly curved blade engaged in a fierce duel with a Night's Watch swordsman. Ghost, ever the opportunistic predator, darted forward, his massive form colliding with the deserter and sending him sprawling to the ground. Before the fallen deserter could rise, Aemon's sword found its mark, delivering a decisive end to the duel.

The deserter bearing a jagged spear advanced menacingly toward a wounded Night's Watch recruit. Ghost, with a silent grace, intercepted the threat, deflecting the spear with his massive paw and incapacitating the assailant. In the ensuing chaos, Aemon delivered a swift and merciful strike, ending the deserter's life with a measured precision.

In the final throes of the battle, a pair of deserters armed with crude axes cornered a weary Night's Watch veteran. Sensing the imminent danger, Ghost lunged into the fray, his ferocity unmatched. The dire wolf tore through the assailants with primal rage, allowing Aemon to deliver a swift and final blow to the last deserter, their lifeless bodies crumpling in the cold embrace of the northern night.

Aemon found himself surrounded by a vengeful cadre of deserters, the frigid wind carrying whispers of impending doom. Three of the rogues veered off toward Ghost, the dire wolf that had stood faithfully by Aemon's side. The remaining two, eyes gleaming with malice, closed in on Aemon, blades raised high in a grim symphony of impending violence.

Aemon fought with a desperate fervor, his sword cleaving through the air in a frantic attempt to parry the onslaught. However, the deserters, fueled by a toxic mix of hatred and desperation, pressed on relentlessly. The clash of steel echoed through the night, each blow bringing Aemon closer to the brink of exhaustion.

Meanwhile, Ghost faced the trio of assailants, his white fur now stained with the crimson evidence of previous battles. The deserters, aware that Ghost's joining into the battle was due to Aemon, thought it best to keep him at bay while the boy was dealt with, attacked with calculated ruthlessness. Fangs met steel as Ghost fended off the relentless onslaught, but the odds began to shift as the deserters worked in tandem to overwhelm the dire wolf.

Back in Aemon's corner of the skirmish, the situation grew dire. The two deserters, sensing victory within their grasp, intensified their assault. Aemon parried and dodged with a skill honed by years at the Wall, but the sheer force of the onslaught was proving insurmountable. Fatigue set in, and with each strained movement, it became evident that Aemon, the stalwart defender of the Night's Watch, was teetering on the precipice of defeat. As the deserters closed in for the final, fatal strikes, Aemon's resolve wavered but did not break.

As the deserters closed in on Aemon Snow, the fatal blows poised to end his life, a sudden intervention shattered the impending doom. A sword, swift and sure, intercepted the deathly strike with a resounding clash. The deserters staggered back in surprise, their momentary advantage disrupted by an unforeseen defender. In the fleeting silence, the figure emerged from the shadows, revealing himself to be none other than Aemon's great-grandfather, Lord Commander Benjen Stark.

Benjen, a paragon of the Stark lineage, moved with a lethal grace that belied his years. His weapon is a large, long sword that looks nearly identical to the ancestral sword of House Stark, Ice, including its six feet of length. This sword, forged in the crucible of countless battles, became an extension of his will. With a single, deft motion, he severed the arms of the assailant, the detached limbs falling to the ground in grotesque testimony to the abrupt shift in fortune. Then quickly, he surged forward with a shoulder tackle as the man collapsed to the ground, and Benjen ended the man's life by stabbing the sword downward to his skull.

The chaos continued as the second deserter rushed forward, his intent clear in the malevolence etched across his face. Yet, Benjen, the seasoned warrior, proved elusive. A sidestep so fluid it seemed almost preternatural, and the deserter stumbled, leaving himself vulnerable to Benjen's relentless counterattack. A swift downward thrust of the sword pierced through the deserter's hip, and the man collapsed to the ground with a guttural cry on to knees. Benjen, undeterred, raised the sword and drove it into the deserter's skull, severing the life that once pulsed within. Then, moving the blade upwards, he cut through the man's head to release the blade rather than pulling the blade out.

With only one adversary left, the final deserter charged at Lord Commander Benjen with a reckless fury. A dance of blades ensued the clash of steel echoing through the frozen night. Benjen, a master of combat, deflected the blows with calculated precision. Twice, he parried the deserter's strikes before their blades met in a fierce stalemate, the tension escalating.

In a swift and unexpected move, Benjen seized the moment. His hands closed around the deserter's sword, wrenching it from his grasp. With a forceful shoulder, Benjen sent the man sprawling backward, disarmed and vulnerable. Swift as a winter gust, Benjen wielded both swords with deadly proficiency, cutting down the final deserter in a whirlwind of steel.

"Stay close, Aemon," Lord Commander Stark gruffed, his sword still wet with the blood of the fallen deserter. The Night's Watch continued to battle fiercely around them, but in that moment, Aemon found solace in the protective presence of his great-grandfather.

Together, the unlikely pair stood side by side in the struggle for survival against the chaotic backdrop of the haunted forest. Ghost, ever loyal, prowled at their side, his white fur stained with the remnants of the skirmish. The battlefield echoed with the clash of steel, the cries of combatants, and the haunting howls of the dire wolf. Aemon, half-blind and covered in blood, looked at his great-grandfather with a mix of relief and gratitude. The haunted forest seemed to hold its breath as the two Starks faced the remaining chaos.

Two deserters, undeterred by the presence of the Lord Commander, rushed forward, blades raised high. Shifting as a shadow, the Ghost leaped into the fray, ruthlessly tearing into one of the attackers. The other deserter, undeterred by the dire wolf's wrath, swung his sword with deadly intent.

Lord Commander Benjen Stark, a seasoned warrior, parried the incoming strike with precision, their blades clashing in a flurry of sparks. Aemon, now behind his great-grandfather, gripped his small sword tightly, ready to defend the Lord Commander.

As the duel unfolded, Ghost dispatched the first deserter, his jaws closing around the man's throat with lethal force. The lifeless body crumpled to the ground as Ghost turned his attention to the remaining threat.

The remaining deserter, realizing the dire wolf's imminent threat, faltered for a moment. In that moment of hesitation, Lord Commander Stark seized the opportunity. With a swift movement, he disarmed the deserter, sending the blade clattering to the snowy ground before Aemon stabbed the man in the heart with a dagger.

For the better part of two hours, the fight continued. The Night's Watch did go through the openings on the walls, which allowed them to be funneled into many archer fires. The ditches made were dilute to overcome, and the few that made it across were quickly killed and thrown into the ditch by the testers. One man of the Night's Watch realized this and decided to get every man he could send the ones they killed in the ditches to fill them and allow the Night's Watch to overwhelm the deserters with numbers rather than allow the deserters to keep space and pick them off with arrows.

The frigid air settled in the aftermath of the battle, and the haunted forest bore witness to the somber echoes of victory and loss. The Lord Commander's roar cut through the lingering cries of combat, demanding a toll of the fallen. The Night's Watch emerged triumphant, though the cost had been high.

Aemon stood by, his face stained with the remnants of the gruesome skirmish as Lord Commander Stark surveyed the field. The battle, which had once roared with chaos, now dwindled to sporadic skirmishes and isolated clashes. Hundreds were on the ground as blood soaked the white snow. floor

In the aftermath of the chaos, as the echoes of clashing steel began to fade, the Night's Watch emerged victorious in the battle against the deserters. Only several skirmishes remained, and there it was suspected that there were a dozen or so more deserters in the keep itself. The haunted forest bore witness to the aftermath of the brutal confrontation, with bodies scattered across the snow-covered ground.

Lord Commander Benjen Stark, his face etched with weariness, approached Aemon amidst the subdued chaos. Concern etched the stern lines of his features as he examined the young Targaryen's left eye, obscured by the blood that matted his face. With a gentle touch, the Lord Commander checked the wound, tracing the line of the slash that marred Aemon's visage.

The Lord Commander used his leather flask to pour water on Aemon's face and clean it enough for him to see Aemon's wounds. Pouring water over the boy's face, he sought to cleanse away the encrusted blood, revealing the extent of the injury. As the cold water trickled down, the Lord Commander spoke with a mix of reassurance and practicality.

"The wound doesn't look that deep, Aemon," Lord Commander Stark remarked, his voice cutting through the lingering tension. "It will heal. You'll carry a scar, a mark of this day, but you'll see it again. You're a Stark and a Targaryen; scars are a part of our stories."

With the healing promise hanging in the frigid air, the Lord Commander's words carried a weight that extended beyond the physical realm. Ghost checked around the area once more before coming to look at Aemon's wound. He sniffed it twice before turning to the Lord Commander as if trying to confirm if the man had told the truth.

Ghost came close and licked Aemon's face as he looked at Aemon's wound. He smiled as he scratched Ghost's ears. "Staying by my side in one life wasn't enough for you, you greedy mutt," he said with a soft almost faint smile as Ghost licked his face once more and pressed his head into Aemon's own forehead. "Missed you too, boy."

Aemon continued to stroke Ghost's fur, his fingers weaving through the few places where the white coat was still not covered in dirt or blood. The dire wolf, a majestic presence, stood steadfast by Aemon's side, reciprocating the affection with a nuzzle and a low, rumbling growl of contentment.

Lord Commander Stark observed the scene, his gaze shifting between Aemon and the formidable creature that stood beside him. Inquisitively, he queried, "How did you manage to win the allegiance of a dire wolf, Aemon? They aren't known to befriend just anyone."

Aemon fixed his eyes on Ghost and said, "He's part of my pack."

The Lord Commander, a man of seasoned wisdom and experience, regarded Aemon with a mixture of admiration and amusem*nt. A smirk played on his lips as he remarked, "First, you tame the mightiest dragon in the realm, and now you've got a dire wolf at your side. The gods must favor you more than most." A moment of levity passed between them, the Lord Commander chuckling at the irony of Aemon's extraordinary companions. "When Rickon hears of this," he continued, "he'll be more pleased than the day Lyanna was born. A grandson who fights alongside a dire wolf beyond the Wall – it's a tale that will bring him more joy than any victory."

The Night's Watchman, panting from the recent battle, approached Lord Commander Stark, saluting before delivering the grim news, "Lord Commander, we've found wildling women in the camp. We spoke to some of them, and it seems the deserters fought and killed their men before taking them."

Lord Commander Stark's expression darkened, and he exchanged a knowing look with Aemon. The young Targaryen nodded, confirming the information, "Aye, it's true. When I was scouting, I saw one of the deserters raping a Wildling woman. I had to intervene."

Lord Commander Stark, his features carved from years of harsh experience, sighed heavily, "This is a grave matter. We can't let such actions go unpunished."

Aemon, despite his tender age, displayed a steely resolve, "We don't know how far away the wildling army is from here. They might be here within a week or a day. We need to act swiftly."

Benjen looked to Aemon and stared into the boy's eyes. "I thought you said we had a month?"

Aemon looked to his grandfather and responded as if returning to a report, "We have a month if they go at their current pace to keep the entire army together. They could reach here soon. And once here, they'll know of our weakness at the Wall and pick up speed to reach the Wall, regardless of keeping the army together. Even if only half the army makes it to the Wall within a few days, they still outnumber us."

Lord Commander Stark nodded, "Bring the women to safety and gather any survivors found. We'll interrogate the deserters who are still alive and get to the bottom of this."

As the Night's Watchman hurried to carry out the orders, Aemon met the Lord Commander's gaze, determination burning in his remaining eye. Aemon squared his shoulders, his young face determined. "I need to go inside and help flush out any more deserters. Ghost can help me find them and protect me."

The Lord Commander's gaze hardened. "No, Aemon. I won't allow a child with only one eye to venture into a place where he could be attacked by surprise. I already regret allowing you beyond the Wall."

Aemon met the Lord Commander's stern look with defiance. "I've already been inside the keep, Lord Commander. I know much of its layout. With Ghost by my side, nothing will go wrong. I want to help." Aemon's gaze did not waver, "I've faced dangers before, beyond the Wall and within North. I can handle myself, and Ghost will keep me safe. You need all the help you can get, and I won't sit idly by."

The Lord Commander sighed, his gaze softening slightly, "Aemon, you're my kin, and I worry for your safety. I can't let you put yourself in harm's way. I already let you do as you wished, and it lost you your eye for at least half a moon!"

Aemon, undeterred, insisted, "I've fought against the wildlings, and I've faced dangers most can't comprehend. I want to help, Lord Commander, for the North and the Night's Watch."

After a moment of contemplation, "No lad, you did enough; stay behind and get one of the lads that are better with wounds to check you over. Gods know I'm sh*t at it."

Aemon stood up and came closer to his great-grandfather. His great-grandfather looked down on the boy. Aemon wished to help; he wished to put an end to all the skirmishes so that they could fish quickly and head back to the Wall and prepare. Aemon's stoic face should have no emotion, much like his great-grandfather's. The two Stark-looking males said nothing. A young wolf challenged the aging alpha. In the end, the young wolf backed down and begrudgingly sat down on the icy wooden stump.

Aemon sat alone on an icy stump outside the keep, the bitter cold seeping through his black wolf's cloak. Lord Commander Benjen Stark's orders were clear – Aemon was to stay put while the Night's Watch finished the skirmishes inside. Ghost stood faithfully by his side, the massive dire wolf's white fur blending with the snowy landscape.

The sky overhead was a canvas of swirling snowflakes, a silent witness to the aftermath of the battle. In the distance, the muffled sounds of the Night's Watch dealing with the remaining deserters echoed through the frigid air. Aemon's one good eye surveyed the surroundings, his face etched with a mixture of frustration and determination.

The captured deserters, now terrified, stole furtive glances at the giant white wolf beside Aemon. Ghost's red eyes gleamed with an otherworldly intensity, serving as a silent warning to anyone who dared approach the young Targaryen.

As Aemon awaited the conclusion of the Night's Watch actions within the keep, his thoughts turned to his role in bringing this conflict to light. The icy winds whispered through the snowy landscape, carrying with them the weight of the choices made beyond the Wall.

The Night's Watch, relentless in their pursuit, spent another hour cleansing the keep of the remaining deserters. The sound of clashing steel, muffled cries, and the occasional roar of winter winds resonated through the air. The icy winds carried the echoes, creating an eerie symphony in the aftermath of the battle.

The Night's Watch controlled over sixty deserters as the skirmishes subsided. Disarmed and defeated, the captured men were herded together like sheep being brought to a pen. Their faces bore the marks of desperation and fear, knowing that they had transgressed beyond redemption.

Amidst the chaos, more than a hundred Wildling women were accounted for, their faces etched with suspicion and defiance. Many of them stood together, forming a united front against the Night's Watch. The scars of their recent ordeal were still fresh, and the men in black had to contend not only with the remnants of the deserters but also with the distrustful glares of the very women they had come to save.

The Night's Watch stood in the aftermath of the chaos, the captured deserters in tow and the Wildling women now under their watchful gaze. The Lord Commander, Benjen Stark, faced with the question of what to do with the women, turned to his men for counsel.

Aemon, the young Targaryen prince, stepped forward with a proposition that caught many by surprise. "They should come with us," he declared, his voice carrying a conviction that demanded attention.

Confused murmurs swept through the ranks of the Night's Watch, and skeptical gazes turned toward Aemon. Always practical and cautious, the Lord Commander asked him to elaborate on his proposal.

"Torrhen Wolfsbane's army is coming. If I were him, I would find it suspicious if I learned of a settlement that held Night's Watchmen, deserters, or otherwise, had wildling women in the keep, and after the Night's Watch left, the women stayed."

The Lord Commander thought of Aemon's words and thought of the conclusion out loud. "Either way, this will get their attention, and he will come this way. He'll wonder why the Night's Watch was here, learn that there were deserters, and see that there was fighting in the Watch; he'll attack sooner if he thinks the Watch weak."

A murmur of disagreement spread among the men. "They're wildlings! We can't trust them," one argued.

Aemon's voice cut through the frigid air, his impassioned plea echoing the gravity of the situation. "They're not just wildlings; they're people, and the Night's Watch deserters violated them. It's our responsibility to make amends."

The Night's Watchmen, perplexed by the boldness of the suggestion, turned to their Lord Commander for guidance. Lord Commander Benjen Stark, standing tall and resolute, listened to Aemon's words. The howling wind seemed to carry the weight of the impending decision.

Aemon continued, "Torrhen Wolfsbane's army is coming, and if we leave these women here, they'll be left with nothing. The army will strip this land of every resource, and these women will starve. We can take them to Mole's Town and offer them refuge. It's the least we can do."

"The wildlings have killed tens of thousands of us for thousands of years, boy," the Lord Commander replied.

"And the Night's Watch has killed ten times that number in the same time," Aemon argued. Aemon's frustration grew, and he shot back, "It was Night's Watch deserters who violated and harmed these women. What does that say about us if we turn our backs on them now? The Night's Watch is sworn to protect men's realms, including these women."

The Lord Commander turned to the group of Wildling women, facing the complexity of the decision. "What do you wish to do?" he asked, his voice firm but considerate.

Several women stepped forward, their eyes reflecting the pain and horror they had experienced at the hands of the Night's Watch deserters. "The men we were with did horrible things to us, and your former brothers killed him," one of the women confessed, her voice shaky but determined.

"They did unspeakable things to us," one woman confessed, her voice trembling with a mixture of fear and anger. The sentiment was echoed by others who recounted the brutality they endured at the hands of the deserters.

"I don't trust crows," another declared. The tension in the air was palpable as the women expressed their reluctance to trust those who wore the black.

Another woman, her gaze hardened by the harsh realities of the North, continued, "You wear the same black as those black sh*ts."

A particularly striking woman, seven years older than Aemon, emerged from the group. Her hair, the color of dark honey, cascaded down to her waist, adorned with a golden braid across one shoulder. Her face was framed by high cheekbones and eyes that seemed to shift between pale grey and blue. Despite the dire circ*mstances, she possessed a slender figure with a full bosom. Aemon whispered the name Val to himself but quickly realized it wasn't her.

Addressing Aemon directly, she spoke with a sense of gratitude and admiration. "The little crow saved me," she began, her voice carrying a blend of warmth and strength. She recounted how Aemon had risked his life to protect her from rape. "He killed the crow himself. He could have left me to him, escaped. But he stopped him, the little crow saved me and almost died. I trust the little crow."

The heated discussions among the Night's Watch and the Wildling women continued, the bitter winds of the far North carrying the weight of uncertainty. The Lord Commander, with a stern and measured voice, voiced his concerns about the potential repercussions of the women staying with the Night's Watch.

"If they stay, the Wildling army will gain information about us, information that could be as damning as if they were in the hands of the deserters," he argued, emphasizing the strategic implications of their decision.

Amid the debates, the Wildling women took a pivotal step. After a lengthy discussion, they decided to trust the judgment of the "little crow," Aemon, believing that he had their best interests at heart. The decision weighed heavily on Aemon's young shoulders as the women's fate rested partly in his hands.

The Night's Watch, begrudgingly acknowledging the strategic concerns raised by the Lord Commander, reluctantly agreed to let the Wildling women accompany them. The sixty deserters, now prisoners, added to the uneasy alliance that traversed the harsh landscape back to the Wall.

The group endured the biting cold and treacherous terrain for four more days, the journey a testament to the complex dynamics at play. The bitter winds whispered tales of redemption, trust, and survival as they neared the Wall, where the frigid stones stood as silent witnesses to the struggles beyond the icy veil of the North.

During the last night before they reached the Wall, Aemon's dreams turned sour once more. Sleep never came to Aemon because each one was filled with the blue eyes of the dead or the memories that were not his; he now knew them to be Balerion's when he conquered the lands for Aegon the Dragon. But here he was dreaming again, not of Balerion, but of his other mount and bound.

In his dream, Aemon found himself in the ethereal form of Ghost, the dire wolf with fur as white as snow. The vast expanse of the lands beyond the Wall unfolded before him, a pristine canvas of untouched snow-covered fields. The eerie tranquility of the winter forests enveloped the surroundings.

Aemon, or rather Ghost, keenly sensed the scent of blood lingering in the frosty air. Instinctively, he followed the trail, his large paws leaving imprints in the freshly fallen snow. The dream unfolded in a surreal dance of shadows and moonlight, with the haunting silence of the North broken only by the crunching of snow beneath Ghost's powerful strides.

The deeper Ghost ventured into the winter forest, the more pronounced the scent of blood became. It was a visceral experience, the dream blurring the lines between Aemon's consciousness and the primal instincts of the dire wolf. The gnarled branches of ancient trees cast elongated shadows that danced in the moonlit night, creating an otherworldly atmosphere.

As Ghost continued his journey, the dream took on an ominous tone. The distant howls of unseen creatures echoed through the woods, and the air seemed to thicken with an unspoken tension. The dream became a tapestry of sensations — the cold wind brushing against Ghost's fur, the distant sounds of the forest, and the ever-intensifying scent of blood guiding him deeper into the heart of the winter wilderness.

Ghost's large form padded through the wintery expanse until he reached a chilling scene—a large clearing marked by a grotesque display. The frigid air seemed to thicken around the open space, and a pervasive sense of unease settled over the dream landscape.

In the center of the clearing, the once-pristine snow was stained with thick, dark blood. The remnants of lifeless bodies lay strewn about, forming a nightmarish pattern—spirals reminiscent of the symbols associated with the enigmatic Children of the Forest. The corpses, dismembered and arranged with macabre precision, created a disturbing mosaic that spoke of ancient rituals and ominous portents.

Ghost, ever the silent observer in this surreal realm, surveyed the grotesque display with an otherworldly understanding. The spirals, etched in the crimson tapestry of the snow, seemed to resonate with an ancient power, a force that lingered in the air like a haunting melody. The dream offered no explanations, only a tableau of horror and symbolism that resonated in the depths of Aemon's sleeping consciousness.

Aemon's eyes snapped pen as he looked at the fires before him with a terrified gaze. His heart beat faster and faster as he gasped for breath. No one around him was awake, every man sleeping save for the watcher too far away to notice Aemon. But he was glad for it. He would not sleep that night; he never slept; this time, however, he felt as though he looked upon the Night King once more. He felt as though he had already lost all over again.

Notes:

As you can guess, the current arc of the story takes place during a wildling invasion; this will continue for about three or four chapters after this one. I don't want it to take forever, but I want to flesh this out so that Aemon/Jon may get some connection to the North that he will otherwise lack now that he has to take his place, more so as the future of House Targaryen. I might do two more arcs before the main story commences, but they most likely won't be anywhere as long. I feel like Jon needs to have a reputation among the people before Daemon is renounced as heir. Because now, instead of just glossing over Daemon, if they pick Rhaenyra, they will disrespect the two male Targaryens, which is the only way to continue the Targaryen name, by tradition, and lose not just Caraxes but also the Conqueror's dragon, which will also make Rhaenyra look even worse since she would look like the usurper of Aemon who could be perceived as the perfect heir by building reputation battle, having the name of Jaehaerys first heir, and having the first king's dragon, basically this decision weakness House Targaryen by removing two dragons and almost delegitimizes Rhaenyra without even touching the fact she is a girl.

I hope you like how I am doing, Jon/Aemon; I pray I'm doing well by him; he is one of my favorite characters. I loved the idea of Jon being reincarnated. Still, I felt that some stories don't use his past experiences enough and make it so that in the first few chapters, he is confused about how to act in this new life and eventually is so connected to this new life that he almost forgets his previous one. Honestly, I don't think Jon ever truly came to terms with being a Targaryen in the show; that conversation was like five minutes, and he barely reflected on it before telling Sansa, who is a political and manipulative mastermind trained by the best, and Arya, who everyone could tell changed so drastically that honestly, they might as well not have known her any longer. This arc was made so that Jon has such closure in the idea that some parts will always be northern, even if he is being embraced more as a Targaryen. I want to do this right. Thank you.

Chapter 13: The Battle of the Wall

Summary:

The wildling army led by the Wolfsbane himself reaches the Wall and Aemon comes to defend the place he once called home.

Chapter Text

The Wall 102 AC

Aemon Targaryen/ Jon Snow

Upon their return to the Wall, Aemon and the Night's Watch were met with sad tidings that cast a shadow over the already chilling northern landscape. As they approached the towering structure of ice and stone, the air carried whispers of tragedy that mirrored the desolation of the lands beyond the Wall.

The grim news unfolded as they were informed of the havoc wrought by the wildlings who had already crossed south of the Wall. The villages, once thriving with life, now lay in ruin—smoke rising from the remnants of burning homes, the acrid scent of destruction lingering in the cold northern air. The reports show that the wildlings were growing closer to the Wall instead of going further south. The crisp winds seemed to carry echoes of the screams that had accompanied the fiery onslaught.

The reports spoke of widespread devastation, with nearly five thousand commonfolk meeting a grisly end at the hands of the marauding wildlings. Their lives, like fragile candles in the wind, were extinguished amid the chaos and brutality of the invasion.

The wildlings, driven by a ruthless determination, had claimed lives and set fire to the precious forests and woods that adorned the northern landscape. The crackling flames devoured the greenery, leaving behind a desolate landscape where once-promising crops struggled to survive. The heart of the North, already burdened by the looming threat of winter, now bore the scars of a conflict. But still, the Night's Watch would not act; their duty was to the Wall, and while Aemon hated to admit it, he was needed here as well due to the overwhelming numbers of the wildlings coming from beyond the Wall.

The return to the Wall was marked by the biting sting of harsh winter winds, each gust carrying with it the cold whispers of the North. As Aemon and the Night's Watch approached the colossal structure, Balerion's triumphant roar echoed through the air, a proclamation of their return that resonated across the icy landscape.

The vastness of the black dragon, perched regally above the Wall, cast a shadow over the men below, a stark reminder of the mythical power that stood with them. The awe-struck gazes of those who manned the Wall bore witness to the colossal creature, a living testament to the Targaryen legacy now entwined with the Night's Watch. Aemon wondered if Balerion's weight was enough to break the Wall before he had fully made it to the North, but now he knew his answer.

The sight of Aemon, accompanied by the presence of Ghost, left the onlookers in awe. With fur as white as the snow-laden landscape, the dire wolf stood by Aemon's side, a silent guardian that had proven its loyalty beyond the Wall. Whispers of the battle at Osric's Keep spread like wildfire among the Night's Watch, and the tales painted Aemon as a figure of resilience and courage.

Word of the boy's deeds and the mythical companionship of a dire wolf and a dragon led the men of the Night's Watch to christen Aemon with a new title—the White Wolf. The name carried with it an air of both reverence and mystique, signifying not only his connection to the noble house of Stark but also the extraordinary events that had unfolded beyond the Wall.

As the snow continued to fall, covering the Wall and its surroundings in a pristine blanket of white, the men of the Night's Watch looked upon Aemon, the White Wolf, and his formidable companions with a mixture of admiration and trepidation, aware that the forces beyond the Wall were far more complex and dangerous than they had ever imagined.

In the sad days that followed their return to Castle Black, a sense of urgency gripped the Night's Watch as they prepared for the impending clash with the wildling army. The courtyard echoed with the sounds of blacksmiths hammering away at armor and blades while the cold winds whispered through the towering structures of Castle Black.

Aemon took an active role in the preparations. His left eye, still bearing the scar from the skirmish at Osric's Keep, was a constant reminder of their challenges. Alongside Lord Commander Benjen Stark, Aemon strategized and coordinated the efforts to fortify the Wall and ready the Night's Watch for the onslaught on the horizon.

The men trained tirelessly, honing their skills with swords, bows, and other implements of war. Balerion's imposing presence added an air of both reassurance and fearlessness to the training grounds. The dragon's fiery breath, a display of its might, was a stark reminder of the power that stood with the Night's Watch.

Ghost, the dire wolf, prowled the snowy grounds with an eerie grace, a silent sentinel overseeing the preparations. Aemon, attuned to the bond between him and Ghost, found solace in the wolf's company as they surveyed the Wall together, each lost in their thoughts.

The atmosphere within Castle Black was tense, laden with the weight of impending conflict. Every man knew the magnitude of the battle they were about to face, and the importance of their preparations echoed through the ancient stone halls. As the days passed, Aemon's stature among the Night's Watch grew, his actions at Osric's Keep cementing his place as a figure to be reckoned with.

Aemon stood atop the Wall, gazing southward as the winds whipped through his raven-black hair. A different kind of chill consumed the bitter cold bit at his face, but his thoughts – the chilling realization that the impending storm approached from both ends of the realm.

From his vantage point, Aemon pondered the fate of Winterfell. The North, a vast and storied land, was undoubtedly a formidable ally. If the Northern lords had rallied their banners and set forth for the Wall, the Night's Watch could stand a chance against the impending onslaught of wildlings. Yet, uncertainty lingered in Aemon's mind, a gnawing worry that the vast wilderness and the relentless wildling threat might have delayed the North's arrival.

Ameon thought that the Northern lords had reached Winterfell and should be on their way to the Wall. The question was, did the wildlings already south of the Wall slow them down? While nearly tens of thousands came across already, Aemon wagered due to them not knowing how to deal with such large numbers as a single unit, and due to the northern lords fighting back, the number of wildings south of the Wall was just north of ten thousand now, half of what they crossed with just about a moon ago.

The Night's Watch prayed for the sight of familiar banners approaching from the south. The arrival of Northern armies would tip the scales, bringing hope to Castle Black and bolstering their defense against the hordes that lurked beyond the Wall.

As the days passed, Aemon's anxiety grew. The Night's Watch diligently continued their preparations, but the knowledge that the wildlings could descend upon them at any moment loomed heavily in the air. Six thousand courageous and resolute men could not hope to withstand the overwhelming force that the wildlings represented.

Aemon's thoughts were on the absence of any Targaryen emissaries. There were no other Targaryens on the Wall when he returned, no tell of other dragons, and no word had spread to the Wall that Red Keep informed the realm of a missing prince, especially one who was third in line for the throne. But the most surprising person was not there, Daemon himself.

Daemon Targaryen, Aemon's father, was a great influence in the Red Keep, even if he was off building Summerhall, yet the news of Aemon's flight seemed to have eluded him. If Daemon was not here to bring Aemon back, that meant he had yet to learn of Aemon's disappearance, and the only way that is possible is if no one is speaking about the disappearance, even in the Red Keep. The Targaryens were trying to keep Aemon's disappearance secret and if they sent any dragon rider out to find him, they would undoubtedly draw attention and the anger of Daemon for them not being able to keep Aemon in the Red Keep.

The night unfolded in an abyssal cloak of darkness, the heavens obscured by thick, brooding clouds that denied the stars their celestial dance. The biting winds, laden with the promise of winter's frigid breath, whipped through the air, carrying a relentless barrage of snowflakes that stung like icy needles. The harsh blizzard, a herald of the impending winter, sought to ensnare the world in its icy grasp.

In the heart of this wintry tempest stood Aemon, his silhouette barely discernible against the backdrop of the raging storm. The Night's Watch, recognizing the symbolic might wielded by the boy with a dire wolf and a dragon, had reluctantly given him a watch to uphold. The snow assaulted him with a fervor akin to hail, a relentless onslaught that tested the resilience of those who dared to venture into the night.

Wrapped in layers of black, Aemon gazed into the swirling void, his eyes searching for any movement amidst the blinding white expanse. The Wall, a silent sentinel, loomed large, its icy surface glistening in the muted glow of the snow-laden night. Balerion, the Black Dread, perched atop the Wall, a silhouette of power against the indomitable forces of winter.

As the blizzard raged on, Aemon's thoughts were a storm of their own. Winter was not merely a season but an omen, a harbinger of challenges yet to unfold. His watch, a solitary vigil in the heart of the storm, embodied the quiet defiance of a realm bracing itself for the unknown. In the stillness of that wintry night, the boy with Targaryen blood and Northern resolve stood guard, a living testament to the intricacies of fate and the dance of elements beyond mortal comprehension.

In the pitch-black heart of the night, Aemon's gaze fixed on the horizon beyond the Wall, his eyes piercing through the veil of the snow-laden blizzard. The world around him was obscured, every detail drowned in the relentless assault of swirling white flakes. But amidst the frozen chaos, a faint glow flickered on the edge of the known world.

Aemon squinted, the orange hue barely discernible against the vast canvas of winter's ferocity. The glow, a mere ember on the distant landscape, swelled and intensified. It transformed into a raging inferno, a conflagration that consumed the very heart of the forest just a stone's throw from the Wall.

As realization dawned upon him, Aemon's mind echoed with the words of the Night's Watch deserter, a grisly insight uttered by a wildling doomed to fall. The deserter had forewarned of a fiery spectacle meant to herald the advance of the wildling army. Now, standing witness to the colossal blaze, Aemon comprehended the magnitude of the impending threat.

Once cloaked in the serene beauty of snow-laden branches, the entire forest was now a pyre stretching towards the heavens. The flames danced with an untamed fervor, casting grotesque shadows that flickered and contorted in the relentless gusts of the blizzard. Aemon's heart quickened, for the fire that now raged before him was not merely a destructive force of nature—it was a signal, a herald of the encroaching storm that bore the weight of an entire civilization seeking to breach the Wall.

The night shuddered beneath the echoing proclamation of Balerion's thunderous roar, a sound that seemed to resonate with the very foundations of the Wall itself. The roar was more than loud enough to wake the sleepers. Aemon, already poised to signal the impending threat, found himself bowing involuntarily before the colossal resonance, a symphony of might that overpowered the wintry cacophony surrounding Castle Black.

As the echoes of the dragon's roar reverberated through the frigid air, Aemon surveyed the Wall's expanse. His keen eyes discerned the hurried response of the Night's Watch, a synchronized ballet of men hastening to their posts, scaling the icy heights to brace against the imminent assault. The urgency sparked by Balerion's bellow rippled through Castle Black, an unspoken pact amongst brothers clad in black to stand vigilant against the encroaching storm.

Aemon, still kneeling from the roar, gradually rose, his ears still ringing with the echoes of draconic might. Despite the overwhelming tumult, he knew the dance had begun—the wildlings, driven by the infernal glow beyond the Wall, were surging forth like an unbridled force of nature. The Night's Watch, bound by oaths and centuries of tradition, rallied to defend the realm from the tempestuous tide that threatened to engulf the Wall.

The abyssal sea of torches emerged from the incandescent inferno beyond the Wall, a relentless surge of wildlings advancing like a tide of living flame against the stark canvas of the frozen landscape. Aemon's gaze, fixated on the spectral glow that heralded their approach, carried the weight of a leader yearning to be a warrior, yet the constraints of circ*mstance held him back.

Amid the chaos, the prospect of unleashing Balerion's might was a tantalizing thought, a dormant desire kindling in Aemon's heart. Yet, the dragon's enigmatic reluctance to soar beyond the Wall tethered the young Targaryen to the realm of longing ambitions. The flames of a dragon might have devoured the sea of torches, but Balerion, steadfastly grounded, remained a sentinel of the Wall.

Aemon grappled with the internal strife of choices, torn between the duty to engage the force beyond the Wall and the immediate threat looming over Castle Black. The chilling reality echoed in his thoughts—the castle was under siege, its defenders counting on ice resilience against the fiery onslaught. If brought too close, the flames that could annihilate the wildlings might also reduce Castle Black to ashes.

Aemon's voice cut through the biting wind, clear and commanding, as he surveyed the Wall and its defenders, his dark eyes revealing a determination beyond his years. "Where is the Lord Commander?" he inquired, the urgency in his voice underscored by the imminent threat that loomed beyond the icy barricade.

"The wildlings hit the south side just before Balerion roared. The Lord Commander and the First Ranger are holding the line at Castle Black," one man explained, the gravity of the situation etched on his face.

Aemon's eyes scanned the nearly five hundred men stationed atop the Wall. The scared left eye seemed to be highlighted by the fire pits on the Wall, his black cloak making him as though he was a living shadow in the blizzard. No commanding officers were present, leaving an ominous void in leadership. His young shoulders squared, and Aemon stepped forward.

Aemon looked onto the fires across the Wall, the sea of wildlings, and their torches. Aemon looked to the men as they had arrows in their buckets and holsters near the small platforms of wood to fire off. "Ready your arrows and bring barrels of oil," Aemon ordered with a firmness that brooked no dissent.

"Why should we listen to a child?" questioned a skeptical voice. Aemon turned around to see many men supporting the brother in question. Aemon understood the thought; no man would listen to a child in times of war. But Aemon also noticed the man opened up the statement for others to try and claim the position for themselves and become the leader of this group to face the wildlings. The man was going to continue before something tackled the man from behind, sprawling him on the ground flat. The man looked up only to see the bloody red eyes of Ghost. Ghost was unnaturally calm and quiet, but his snarl was clear to see; he was more than willing to rip the man's throat out. Aemon, ever the mediator, gestured for Ghost to step back, affirming his control over the dire wolf.

"Anyone else wishes to take charge?" Aemon challenged the assembly, met with a resounding silence. "Ready the arrows and the oil. We defend the Wall."

The Wall stood as a colossal barrier, its icy surface gleaming ominously in the torchlight. The men dipped the arrowheads in the oils around them and pushed the arrowheads into the torches by their sides. Four hundred men had their arrows in a blaze as another hundred were ready to switch out empty arrow holsters. They drew their arrows, ready to fire as the mass of wildlings began to run out of the forests rather than their slow march.

Aemon's voice, though youthful, resonated with an authority that belied his age. "Fire!" he commanded, his words cutting through the howling wind.

In response, a symphony of tensioned bowstrings sang as arrows were sent soaring into the frigid night. With grim determination etched on their faces, the men on the Wall became a relentless storm of fire.

As the arrows arched through the air, they left trails of radiant light against the ink-black sky. The men worked with practiced efficiency, dipping fresh arrows into barrels of oil and hastily igniting them. The Wall became a forge of flame, and the night sky erupted with a cascade of fiery projectiles.

The volley descended upon the wildling horde below like a tempest, each arrow carving an ephemeral streak of brilliance before meeting its target. Hundreds of feet down, the chaos unfolded beneath as the flaming arrows found their marks. The snow-covered ground became a chaotic dance of flickering flames, illuminating the faces of the wildlings caught in the onslaught.

The air crackled with the hiss of burning flesh and the triumphant cries of the Night's Watch. The Wall, once a stoic guardian against the unknown, now bore witness to the unleashed fury of its defenders. Aemon, atop the icy precipice, watched the inferno of falling stars he had orchestrated, knowing that this was only the beginning of the battle to safeguard the realms of men.

The falling arrows descended like celestial bodies, leaving trails of fiery brilliance that cut through the biting cold of the blizzard. Each flaming streak painted the night in hues of orange and gold, briefly eclipsing the relentless onslaught of the snowstorm. In the harsh winds, the arrows danced like falling stars, their glow a stark contrast to the desolate landscape.

The wildlings, charging through the deep snow, were met with the searing rain of fire over and over again. Panic and confusion spread among their ranks as the relentless barrage forced them to veer off course, desperately trying to avoid the deadly trajectory of the flaming arrows. The blizzard, unforgiving and relentless, howled in protest, but the Wall stood tall, a bastion of defiance against the encroaching darkness.

Despite the biting cold and the fury of the storm, the Night's Watch persisted in their volleys. Fresh arrows continued to rain down, each one a harbinger of destruction for any wildling daring to approach the base of the Wall. The men on the Wall, faces obscured by fur-lined hoods and frost-covered beards, stood as a united front against the advancing horde.

As the flaming arrows continued to descend, Aemon surveyed the unfolding chaos below. Despite the onslaught, the wildlings pressed on with determination, reaching the base of the Wall. He could see them preparing battering rams, chopping down trees to construct makeshift siege weapons.

Aemon called out to the men on the Wall, rallying them in the face of the impending assault. "Prepare for a breach! Ready the defenses at the outer gate! We can't let them break through! Grab the barrels!"

Fueled by a shared sense of duty, the Night's Watch hastened to reinforce the outer gate. Men rushed for the barrels of oil that would be needed, and men readied themselves with flaming arrows, aiming for the wildlings attempting to scale the Wall. The sound of clashing weapons, grunts, and the howling wind created a cacophony of battle.

Aemon, with Ghost by his side, observed the chaos, his young voice carrying authority. "Hold the line! We can't let them breach the gate! Pour the oil and ready the arrows. We stand united against the storm!"

As the wildlings persisted in their attempts to break through, Aemon's eye darted across the Wall, seeking any signs of weakness. The bitter cold and the relentless blizzard were formidable foes, but the Night's Watch stood firm, their actions guided by the urgency of the impending threat.

Aemon continued to bark orders. "Prepare the boiling oil We cannot let them breach the outer gate, or Castle Black is lost!" The urgency in his voice matched the dire circ*mstances unfolding below. Aemon, his lone eye scanning the scene, shouted to the archers on the Wall above, "Keep those arrows raining down on them! We need every second we can get!" The archers responded with a renewed flurry of arrows, each one aimed at halting the advance of the wildlings below.

Aemon watched a large horde of the wildlings that were now concentrated at the large gate. The battering rams made from a cut-down tree slammed into the gate; it would do nothing for now. Aemon could see the horde growing in size, and Aemon realized they were using chains and rope to try and hook around the gate; they were trying to loosen the hinges with the repeated hitting of the battering ram to pull the damn thing down with force.

In the harsh darkness of the blizzard, Aemon's sharp command cut through the wind. "Light the barrels! Drop them over the edge!"

The Night's Watchmen swiftly responded, igniting the barrels filled with oil and fire. With a fiery glow, the barrels were released from the top of the Wall, hurtling down toward the mass of wildlings attempting to breach the gate. The barrels erupted in a blaze upon impact, casting an eerie light on the chaotic scene below.

Aemon continued to direct the defense efforts. "Keep them at bay! Drop more barrels when you see a concentrated group. We cannot let them break through!"

The Night's Watchmen maintained a rhythm, coordinating their actions to thwart the wildlings' advances. The fiery explosions created a barrier of light in the abyss of the blizzard, briefly illuminating the fierce struggle between the defenders of the Wall and the relentless onslaught of the wildling horde.

As the blizzard raged on, the wildling hordes persisted in their relentless climb up the Wall. Despite their valiant efforts, the Night's Watch defenders found themselves overwhelmed by the sheer numbers that ascended, rendering the archers' arrows ineffective against the swarm. For every man they shot down, five more would rush through the opening as the fiery arrows illuminated the ground, just enough for the men to know that they must go to the Wall and not get lost in the piles of bodies, arrows, and chaos.

The wildlings, undeterred by the fiery rain of arrows, had managed to construct makeshift ladders and siege engines from the bones of ancient mammoths and trees from the haunted forests beyond the Wall. Giants, their eyes burning with primal rage, swung colossal clubs and battered at the ice, seeking to breach the ancient barrier. All knew it would not do much, but Aemon realized the giants were using themselves as a sacrifice to take the onslaught of arrows so that fresh wildlings could continue fighting as the giants protected them overhead by taking on the arrows.

The flaming arrows continued to rain down, casting an eerie glow upon the battlefield. Yet, as the flames danced and flickered, they failed to stem the inexorable advance of the wildlings. It was as if an otherworldly force propelled them forward, an unrelenting determination that transcended the mortal realm.

No matter how many wildlings fell to the fiery barrage, more took their place, scrambling over the bodies of their fallen comrades with a primal ferocity. The Wall, once thought impregnable, now stood as a last bastion against the relentless surge of the free folk. They rushed forward and continued to climb the Wall as the giants protected took on all the arrows themselves as living shields in the hope that the wildlings broke through.

Aemon, standing atop the Wall, assessed the dire situation. The giant scythe was their last hope, a formidable weapon designed to sweep away climbers. However, to Aemon's dismay, the lever to release it was jammed. The massive throng of wildlings continued their ascent like an unyielding tide, threatening to breach the Wall.

"We need that scythe! Someone get that lever unstuck!" Aemon shouted, his voice carrying over the tumultuous winds. The Night's Watchmen scrambled, attempting to free the mechanism that could potentially turn the tide of the battle.

As Aemon's desperate cry for the scythe pierced the frigid air, Balerion, the giant black dragon, let out a deafening roar that echoed across the icy expanse. The dragon, perched atop the Wall, spread its wings wide as it responded to the command.

Aemon looked at the dragon, which was larger than the Wall. Aemon knew what words he needed to say, but never before had he said them to kill so many. And yet, he cared little for what he was about to do; it was needed. He had yet to say the words in this lifetime that went hand in hand with being a Targaryen and a dragon rider. But for now, that didn't matter. He brought wildlings' blood when he fought them with his swords when coming to the Wall the first time, and now, he shoots them with arrows; now, he will bring the fire.

Balerion, the mighty dragon under his command, awaited in the shadows, its massive form concealed by the cover of night. The flames flickering in the distance seemed to reflect in Aemon's troubled eyes as he grappled with a decision that weighed heavily on his conscience.

In the recesses of his mind, the faces of Val and Ygritte emerged, their features etched with memories of love and shared moments in the harsh lands beyond the Wall. Val, a woman of wild beauty with hair as white as the snow itself and eyes that sparkled with an untamed spirit. Her strength and resilience had earned her a place of respect among the free folk, and her bond with Aemon had transcended the boundaries of the Wall.

Ygritte, with her fiery red hair and piercing blue eyes, haunted Aemon's thoughts as well. She had been his companion in the wild, and their love had bloomed amidst the dangers of the untamed north. Her laughter echoed in his mind, a painful reminder of the warmth they had found in the midst of the icy wilderness.

The mere contemplation of using Balerion's destructive power against the wildling horde gave Aemon a horrifying vision of Val and Ygritte consumed by dragonfire. The guilt gnawed at Aemon's heart, a visceral struggle between duty and the preservation of the lives of those he once called kin.

He envisioned the dragon's flames engulfing the bodies of Val and Ygritte, their forms twisting and contorting in the searing heat. The anguish etched on their faces, the betrayal in their eyes, became a haunting specter that fueled Aemon's internal conflict. The very idea of sacrificing their lives to protect the Wall tore at his soul.

Aemon perched atop the Wall, saw and heard the Ygritte and Val burning alive as they screamed and screeched. As he considered the devastating power of Balerion's fire, the faces of Val and Ygritte twisted in agony amid the searing flames. The imagined screams of the two women, once beloved, now consumed by dragonfire, echoed through Aemon's conscience like a haunting refrain.

Yet, in this internal struggle, another voice intruded upon his thoughts. A voice, disembodied and chilling, whispered words that sent shivers down Jon's spine. "Burn them all," it whispered. "Burn them all," it said gradually louder. "Burn them all!" it roared in his head. Aemon's eyes looked on Balerion, but for a fleeting second, just longer than a heart, he saw no one but an older man on the Iron Throne, the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen. The words, a sinister reminder of the madness that had gripped the ruler of the Iron Throne, reverberated through Aemon's troubled mind. Aemon saw him moving fervently on his chair as he ordered more wildfire; he ordered the same acidic green flames that Aemon's former dragon, Rhaegal, breathed. Aemon had always thought of the Mad King when Rhaegal breathed his flames, but this was the first time that Aemon would use the flames on the armies of the living. He always had used dragons as intimidation, but never had he let the flames loose on such a scale.

The memories of Aerys and the tales of his cruel reign surfaced in Aemon's thoughts. Aerys, driven to madness, had reveled in burning his enemies alive, reveling in the sad*stic pleasure derived from the screams of those consumed by the flames. The image of women and children meeting a fiery end at the Mad King's command haunted Aemon, a stark reminder of the dark underbelly of power.

The burning visions persisted, and Aemon found himself slipping into a dark contemplation. The desire to end the threat before him, to ensure the safety of the realms of men, clashed with the horror of becoming a merciless executioner. The imagined screams of innocents, akin to the tormented cries heard during the Mad King's reign, tore at Aemon's soul.

In his tortured imagination, Aemon began to see himself as a mirror image of the Mad King, a ruler driven to madness by the weight of responsibility and the harsh choices demanded by war. He envisioned the dragonfire consuming not just the wildling invaders but innocent men, women, and children caught in the fiery maelstrom. Aemon was sentencing many women and children to suffer and starve if he were to burn this army, for there would be no one to protect them in the North. He might as well of burnt the women and children alongside the armies. He was no better than the Mad King. He was no better than Daenerys as she burned King's Landing. He would never be better. Maybe it was the curse of their blood to always burn anything and everything in their path or anything around them. He would burn them all, and it hurt him.

The echoes of the Mad King's madness still reverberated in his mind, a dark specter threatening to consume his sense of duty. As the imagined screams of innocent lives intertwined with the haunting memories of Aerys the Mad King, Aemon found himself paralyzed by indecision.

A familiar voice broke through the cacophony of conflicting thoughts. A wise and weathered voice, that reminded him so much of King Jaehaerys. He thought it was Jaehaerys for some time but somehow it felt wrong. The man was the blood of the dragon, the voice was old and frail, but it sounded lonely.

"A Targaryen, alone in the world, is a terrible thing," he heard the voice whisper in his head. Aemon now knew that voice; he knew who it was, his namesake.

Aemon could see the older man in his mind now, see him sitting on a chair as they spoke in the library. "I need your advice. There is something I want to do, something I have to do but...it will kill a part of me doing it," Aemon whispered to himself.

Maester Aemon was resolute even if he did not look the younger Aemon in the eye. "You have already died twice before," the old man said with no hesitation. "Do it."

Aemon knew these were merely words in his head; he knew that this was not truly happening, but some part of him latched on to it as if it were. Some part of him desperately needed that familiarity of his old life and the wisdom of those who knew his life well. "But you don't even know what I plan to do," Aemon pointed out in his head.

"It does not matter; you do. You will find little joy in your new life, Aemon," the older man said as he touched Aemon's cheek. "I think the gods have cursed you to be born in times in which our family is teetering on death's door. But with any luck and the majority of the stubbornness given to you by your mother and father in both lives, you will find the strength to do what needs to be done. Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy and let the man be born," the maester's words echoed in Aemon's mind like a beacon of clarity.

With the words of Maester Aemon echoing in his mind, Aemon steeled himself. The conflict within him did not vanish, but a newfound resolve took root. He knew that to protect the Wall and the realms of men, he had to make a choice that pained his very soul.

In that moment of clarity, Aemon's gaze returned to the chaos unfolding below. The wildling horde pressed relentlessly against the Wall, and the fiery glow of Balerion's potential unleashed destruction lingered in the distance. Aemon, with a heavy heart, prepared to give the command.

"Dracarys!" Aemon repeated, his voice carrying the weight of ancient Targaryen authority. Balerion, seemingly understanding the urgency, opened its maw wide, unleashing a torrent of searing black flames down upon the climbing wildlings. The fire roared and crackled, engulfing the Wall in a blaze that illuminated the night like a monstrous beacon.

The dragon's black flames, as if conjured from the depths of the abyss, engulfed the landscape, stretching as far as the eye could see. The once frigid air now shimmered with an infernal heat, and the entire horizon became a sea of black fire, a menacing veil that devoured all in its path.

The flames, black as the darkest night, danced with an eerie beauty, casting an ominous glow that painted the frozen landscape in shades of shadow. The firestorm blazed with an intensity that seemed to defy the natural order, consuming everything in its relentless advance. It was a sight both mesmerizing and terrifying, as the very essence of darkness itself manifested in the form of relentless, all-consuming flames.

The wildlings, caught in the inferno, screamed in agony as the flames consumed them. The relentless assault that threatened to overwhelm the Night's Watch now met the unstoppable force of dragonfire. Aemon watched as the cascading flames carved a path of destruction through the wildling ranks, halting their ascent and turning the Wall into a wall of fire.

As Balerion unleashed his fiery breath, the very essence of darkness seemed to manifest in the form of black flames. Once shrouded in the icy grip of winter, the lands beyond the Wall now succumbed to the relentless assault of a supernatural inferno. The cold, which had gripped the region with its icy tendrils, melted away in the face of the searing heat radiating from Balerion's breath.

The flames, an obsidian cascade of pure destruction, devoured everything in their path. The intense black blaze consumed trees, frozen earth, and any unfortunate wildling caught in the dragon's wrath. The heat emanating from the fires was so intense that Aemon, standing atop the Wall, felt the warmth despite the freezing winds that whipped around him.

The paradox of the scene was mesmerizing – a black sea of flames against the backdrop of a dark, stormy night. The contrast between the ethereal black fires and the snow-laden landscape created an otherworldly spectacle. The flames seemed to defy the laws of nature, burning hotter and darker than any fire had a right to.

In the midst of the chaos, Balerion's colossal form remained a silhouette against the blazing abyss. His wings, extended majestically, cast a shadow over the tumultuous scene unfolding below. The dragon's roars merged with the crackling of the black flames, creating a symphony of destruction that reverberated across the desolate landscape.

Aemon, his eyes fixed on the apocalyptic display, couldn't help but marvel at the sheer power unleashed by the ancient dragon. It was a cataclysmic force, a manifestation of Targaryen might that surpassed the limits of mortal comprehension. The air seemed to pulse unholy as Balerion continued to breathe forth the dark fire, a force that transcended the boundaries of the known world.

Balerion's black flames surged forth like a boundless sea of darkness, an all-encompassing inferno that devoured the landscape. The intensity of the flames was so overwhelming that attempting to gaze directly into the abyss of black fire was akin to staring into the sun. The sheer volume of the dark blaze dominated the visual field, leaving nothing beyond the Wall visible except for the ominous, all-consuming blackness of the dragon's breath. The dark storm, once a formidable force, now paled in comparison to the otherworldly spectacle of Balerion's relentless onslaught, rendering the entire scene an indistinct canvas painted in the hues of an ethereal, consuming darkness.

The ceaseless torrent of Balerion's black flames spanned an eternity, an infernal cascade that seemed to defy the boundaries of time. The relentless outpouring engulfed the lands beyond the Wall for more than ten minutes, leaving nothing untouched in its wake. As the dragon's breath finally subsided, the once-climbing horde of wildlings was reduced to smoldering ruins, the fires reaching down to the scorched ground below.

The heat generated by the conflagration was so intense that it melted the once-pristine snow, leaving behind a desolate landscape charred by the dragon's wrath. The breath had traversed a mile, reaching halfway to the distant tree line, a testament to the overwhelming power of Balerion's fiery exhalation. The aftermath lay before the Wall, a scene of destruction and desolation, the blackened earth bearing witness to the awesome might of the dragon's dark flames.

Amidst the charred aftermath, a hushed silence fell upon the Wall. Initially frozen in awe and dread, the Night's Watchmen began to register the extent of Balerion's devastation. The eerie glow of the remaining embers cast shadows on their faces, revealing a mix of relief and disbelief.

A single cheer pierced the quiet, erupting like a spark that ignited the spirits of the men. The contagion of joy spread swiftly, each man joining the chorus of celebration. They clapped each other on the back, shared wide smiles, and exchanged words of gratitude for the dragon that had become their unlikely savior.

In the midst of the revelry, Aemon stood, his eyes wide with a mix of emotions. He marveled at the power of the dragon he commanded, the creature that had staved off an impending threat. Yet, beneath the surface of relief, he couldn't shake the weight of the responsibility that came with wielding such formidable might. The cheers echoed through the frigid night, a symphony of triumph over the silent battlefield.

Amidst the jubilation, Aemon's cry cut through the celebratory air. "Quiet!" he commanded, the authority in his voice quelling the cheers.

As the men hushed, a panting brother from the Night's Watch stumbled towards Aemon. "We're under attack!" he gasped, urgency etched across his face.

Aemon, his brow furrowing, demanded, "What happened?"

The man took a moment to catch his breath. "Ten thousand wildlings, they've breached the south side of Castle Black; the Lord Commander could not stop them from entering. We need every man, and the Lord Commander requested Ghost and your aid. Castle Black is in peril, and they can't hold much longer!"

Aemon cursed under his breath, the weight of the situation pressing upon him. He knew the delicate balance between defending Castle Black and the Wall itself. "If we leave the Wall, they'll climb it once more," Aemon muttered, contemplating his dire choices. The fate of Castle Black hung in the balance, and Aemon found himself torn between the duty to the Night's Watch below and the defense of the Wall.

The heavily breathing black brother looked at Aemon. "My prince, we need you. The Lord Commander says that he needs the dire wolf; no one's going to be able to see him in the snow, and he knows the wolf won't leave you."

"We need to hold the Wall!" one of the men argued for Aemon.

"And if we let Castle Black fall, those wildlings would march right on up here and kill us before letting those north of the Wall through the gates," Aemon returned.

"Your grace, they already made it through. They are bleeding through the front gates and spilling over the south archway of Castle Black. If we don't act now, we are all doomed," the man confirmed.

Aemon did not know what to say. He looked around the brothers and asked for the man with the most seniority out of the five hundred atop the Wall. A middle-aged man with a balding head, a beard reaching his waist, and piercing blue eyes came forth. He named himself Ragnar.

"Brother Ragnar, you have the Wall. I'm leaving you just a bit more than half of the men here to defend her." Aemon, with authority in his voice, gave swift orders to the Night's Watch atop the Wall. "Two hundred archers, down to Castle Black! Ready yourselves for the fight," he commanded, his words firm and decisive. The archers nodded, promptly moving to carry out his instructions.

Turning to the colossal dragon, Balerion, Aemon spoke in High Valyrian, his words carrying the weight of command. "If the wildlings reach halfway up the Wall, unleash your flames upon them. Burn them all."

Balerion roared loudly in response, half of the massive dragon's body perched out of the Wall as his neck loomed over the Wall, allowing his massive head to rest comfortably over the Wall. Aemon knew the wildlings would not be bold enough to climb the Wall once more now that they knew the giant beast they had been seeing that roared like tornado winds could breathe fire. They would be running to the outer gate since one of the heads of the flames reached the ground, save for a few strands, and many would die, but it was a worthwhile risk for them.

Addressing Ragnar, Aemon issued further instructions. "If any wildlings breach the outer gate, drop the flaming barrels upon them. Do not let them pass."

"Your dragon won't listen to me. Without you, he'll have no reason not to burn us all," Raganar returned.

"Well then, don't give him a reason then," Aemon returned. To the remaining two hundred men, he rallied them with determination. "With me! We descend to Castle Black. The Castle Black needs our aid."

As the men below the Wall prepared to descend and face the impending threat, Aemon led the way down towards Castle Black, his resolve unwavering in the face of the imminent battle. The men going down would only be able to go down a dozen or so at a time, and that meant that the first group had to ensure no wildlings attacked the elevator for the others to come down and fight back. Aemon, with Ghost, led the first group of about a dozen or so men as they descended the wooden, frozen elevator.

As Aemon descended on the wooden elevator, the chaos at Castle Black came into full view. The night air was filled with the sounds of battle – the clash of steel, the screams of men, and the roar of flames. Wildlings and Night's Watchmen were locked in a deadly dance of combat, and Aemon could see the brutality of the fight unfolding below.

The courtyard was a chaotic battleground, illuminated by sporadic bursts of flame from burning structures. The air was thick with the acrid scent of smoke and the metallic tang of blood. Aemon's gaze darted across the scene, taking in the gruesome details of the fight.

A sword against axe, dagger against spear – the clash of weapons created a symphony of violence. Bodies fell in quick succession, blood staining the snow-covered ground. Wildling warriors' faces contorted in rage clashed with Night's Watchmen, who fought desperately to defend their stronghold.

Aemon's eyes widened as he witnessed the brutality of the conflict. He saw a Night's Watchman fall, a wildling's axe cleaving through his armor, leaving a trail of crimson. Another Wildling, a woman with fierce determination in her eyes, lunged at a Night's Watchman with a crude spear. But a stray arrow pierced through her neck, and she began to gurgle and choke on her own blood.

The fight was relentless; each swing of a blade or thrust of a weapon met with fierce resistance. Aemon, gripping his sword tightly, felt a surge of urgency.

As the elevator reached the ground, Aemon leaped into action, his sword drawn and determination etched on his face. The fight between Night's Watch and wildlings intensified, and Aemon joined the fray, his every strike aimed at protecting Castle Black from the impending threat.

Aemon stood his ground at the base of the Wall, surrounded by a dozen Night's Watchmen, ready to defend the wooden elevator that would bring reinforcements from the top of the Wall. The chaotic battle between Night's Watch and wildlings raged around them, but Aemon focused on the task.

As the first wave of wildlings approached, Aemon readied his sword with a swift, practiced motion. Ghost, the silent dire wolf by his side, mirrored his readiness, teeth bared and eyes fixed on the incoming threat.

Aemon led his small band of Night's Watchmen with determination. The wildlings charged with ferocity, but Aemon's skill with a blade was evident. His movements were fluid and precise, a dance of deadly efficiency. With a swift slash, Aemon incapacitated a wildling, leaving them vulnerable for Ghost to deliver the finishing blow.

The dire wolf moved with an eerie grace, his white fur blending with the snow-covered landscape as he lunged at the wildlings. His jaws closed around the arm of an approaching enemy, tearing through flesh and causing chaos among the wildling ranks.

Aemon and Ghost fought as one, a seamless collaboration of boy and beast. Aemon's sword flashed, parrying attacks and delivering well-timed strikes, while Ghost's feral instincts complemented Aemon's every move. Together, they formed a deadly duo that struck fear into the hearts of their enemies.

Aemon's leadership kept the Night's Watchmen cohesive, defending the vital elevator. Each swing of his sword was met with Ghost's swift and lethal interventions, creating a lethal synergy that pushed back the relentless onslaught of wildlings.

As the wooden elevator continued its ascent and descent, more Night's Watch reinforcements joined the fray. Aemon and Ghost, undeterred, remained at the forefront, a formidable force against the tide of wildlings. The battle at the base of the Wall became a testament to their resilience and unwavering determination to protect Castle Black.

In the chaotic maelstrom of battle, Aemon, a mere child, moved with an unnatural grace. His slender frame weaved through the clashing combatants, his movements anticipatory and precise. Beside him, Ghost, the towering dire wolf, fought like a mythical beast unleashed upon the battlefield.

As the wildlings closed in, their raucous cries cutting through the frigid air, Aemon's senses heightened. He read their intentions before the first strike was launched, a skill honed through training and the dire circ*mstances of his young life beyond the Wall. Aemon's small sword became an extension of his will, a deadly instrument that he wielded with preternatural finesse.

The wildlings, larger and more robust than the young prince, underestimated the combination of Aemon's agility and Ghost's relentless ferocity. Ghost moved like a white shadow, his massive form dominating the battleground. With each swipe of his powerful claws and every snap of his formidable jaws, the dire wolf dispatched wildlings ruthlessly.

Aemon danced between the chaotic clashes, avoiding blows that would have proven fatal for a child of his stature. His dodges were a testament to the instinctual connection he shared with Ghost, a bond that transcended the boundaries of human and beast. The dire wolf, attuned to Aemon's every move, became a guardian, ensuring no harm befell the young boy.

As Aemon and Ghost moved in harmony, their adversaries found themselves outmatched. The wildlings, driven by desperation and aggression, telegraphed their attacks with a stark predictability. Aemon exploited these openings, his movements a ballet of evasion and retaliation. His sword struck true, finding vulnerable points in the wildlings' defenses, while Ghost's powerful presence created a barrier that none dared to breach.

The battlefield around Aemon became a tableau of chaos and carnage. Ghost's eyes burned fiercely as he relentlessly defended his young charge. Aemon, though inexperienced, fought with a determination that transcended his age, his small form a whirlwind of calculated strikes and evasive maneuvers.

Aemon, having facilitated the arrival of reinforcements, moved away from the elevator, determined to contribute to the defense of Castle Black. The battleground was a chaotic violence, the clash of steel against steel, and the screams of the wounded.

The wildlings pressed forward with a savage fervor, their sheer numbers threatening to overwhelm the Night's Watch defenders. Aemon, with his small stature and Ghost by his side, moved gracefully through the chaotic fray. His movements were a dance of evasion, every step guided by an instinct cultivated through harrowing experiences beyond the Wall.

Atop the roof, a Night's Watch archer and a wildling marksman engaged in a deadly contest. Arrows whizzed through the air like vengeful spirits as the archers sought to outdo each other's skill. The twang of bowstrings echoed in the icy winds, and the clash of arrows filled the frozen night. The duel ended abruptly as one arrow found its mark, plunging into the eye of the wildling marksman.

As Aemon and Ghost moved through the chaos, a group of wildlings emerged from the darkness. Aemon, with a sword in hand, faced off against two attackers while Ghost prowled at his side. With swift swordplay, Aemon deflected the initial strikes, parrying blows with skill. In the shadows, Ghost lunged at the unsuspecting third wildling, ripping into their throat with feral precision. The element of surprise allowed Jon to dispatch his opponents swiftly, their bodies falling lifeless to the snow.

On the battlements, a Night's Watch swordsman clashed with a wildling warrior. Steel met steel in a furious dance, sparks flying with each clash of blades. The bitter cold air carried the grunts and curses of the combatants as they fought for dominance. In a moment of vulnerability, the Night's Watchman's blade found its mark, piercing the wildling's side.

A burly wildling armed with a massive club charged toward Aemon. Ghost, ever vigilant, leaped in front of Aemon, acting as a living shield. The wildling's club met Ghost's form, but the dire wolf held firm; the dire wolf was the size of a horse, and a mere sing of a club would not deter him. Seizing the opportunity, Aemon circled the distracted foe and delivered a precise strike with Longclaw, crippling the wildling. With a feral snarl, Ghost lunged forward, tearing into the wounded enemy and finishing the fight with a savage display of primal strength.

Amidst the chaos, a berserker wielding a massive axe charged through the melee. The Night's Watch defender, armed with a shield, desperately tried to parry the brutal strikes. The clash of metal and wood resounded, but the berserker's relentless onslaught proved too much. With a thunderous swing, the axe cleaved through the shield, finding its mark and ending the defender's resistance.

In the courtyard, a group of Night's Watch brothers faced off against a band of wildlings. The clash of weapons echoed off the stone walls as swords, spears, and daggers danced in a chaotic symphony of violence. The ground became slick with blood, and the cries of the wounded mingled with the clash of arms. The Night's Watch held their ground, but not without paying a heavy toll.

In the midst of a skirmish, Aemon found himself surrounded by a trio of agile wildlings. Ghost, a blur of white fur and red eyes, circled at Aemon's side. The wildlings attacked in a coordinated frenzy, but Aemon's swordsmanship held strong. With each swing of the sword, he deflected their strikes while Ghost darted in and out, slashing at exposed limbs. The dance continued until one wildling, weakened and disoriented, fell prey to Ghost's relentless assault, the dire wolf tearing into their limbs with a ferocity that left no room for escape.

A narrow staircase became the setting for a desperate struggle. A Night's Watchman, outnumbered by wildlings, fought for his life with a combination of skill and desperation. The staircase turned into a bloody battleground as each step became a potential death trap. In the end, a wildling's dagger found its mark, leaving the Night's Watchman lifeless on the cold stone steps.

As the moonlight reflected off the icy ground, Aemon faced a skilled wildling warrior. The clash of steel echoed in the frozen air as the two combatants engaged in a duel of blades. With calculated precision, Aemon blocked and dodged the wildling's strikes. At the opportune moment, Ghost lunged from the shadows, tearing into the enemy's arm with a swift and deadly attack. The wildling, now vulnerable, fell to Aemon's sword, the clash of metal against bone ending the confrontation in the cold silence of the night.

A massive Night's Watchman faced off against a towering giant armed with nothing but a spear. The ground shook with each step as the giant swung a makeshift club. The Night's Watchman, nimble and determined, darted between the giant's legs, delivering precise strikes with his spear. In a daring move, he drove the weapon into the giant's ankle, bringing the colossal foe to its knees. But before he could end the giant, the giant used its large club to slam down on the Night's Watchmen within a single heartbeat; it was as if the club had always been there.

In the thick of the melee, the Night's Watch fought valiantly, but the wildlings, driven by desperation and a thirst for revenge, fought with brutal ferocity. The air was thick with the metallic scent of blood, and the ground beneath Aemon's boots was slick with a morbid co*cktail of snow and gore.

The gruesome scene unfolded with each clash of blades and every desperate swing for survival. Wildlings, their faces contorted in a feral rage, struck with merciless brutality. Night's Watchmen fell, their cries mingling with the cacophony of battle as the relentless assault threatened to breach the defenses.

Ghost, the towering dire wolf, moved with primal savagery, his fangs and claws leaving a trail of mangled bodies in his wake. His white fur was stained crimson, a stark contrast to the surrounding chaos. Aemon, despite his youth, fought with an unyielding determination, his small sword a deadly extension of his will.

Limbs severed, bodies sprawled in unnatural positions, and crimson stains on the pristine white landscape painted a vivid portrait of the grim struggle.

Wildlings, their faces contorted by the harsh winds and the ferocity of battle, surged forward with a primal hunger for blood. Outnumbered and facing a relentless onslaught, the Night's Watch fought desperately to hold their ground. The clash of swords and the twang of bowstrings filled the air as the combatants met in a maelstrom of violence.

Swords swung with deadly intent, cleaving through the air and finding their mark on both sides. The metallic ring of blade against blade echoed through the night, punctuated by the desperate cries of men locked in mortal combat. Some Night's Watchmen fell under the sheer force of the wildlings' strikes, their bodies crumpling under the brutal assault.

Spears thrust forward like deadly serpents, seeking out vulnerable points in the Night's Watch's defenses. The cruel tips found flesh, and the cries of the wounded mingled with the clatter of armor and the visceral sounds of combat. In the chaotic swirl of the battle, faces contorted in pain and rage became indistinguishable from one another.

Arrows soared through the air, their deadly flight leaving trails of death in their wake. Night's Watchmen fell with fletched shafts protruding from their bodies, victims of the relentless barrage from the wildling archers. The merciless rain of arrows added to the nightmarish panorama, turning the once-clear sky into a canvas of death.

Gruesome kills unfolded in the snow-covered expanse. Wildlings, driven by a savage determination, employed crude but effective methods. Blades slashed across throats, leaving crimson arcs against the pristine white backdrop. Limbs were severed with brutal efficiency, and the air resonated with the sickening thud of bodies hitting the ground.

The brutality was not confined to one side, as Night's Watch blades also found their mark. Desperation and survival fueled the ferocity of the defenders, and each swing of a sword or thrust of a spear was an act of defiance against the encroaching horde.

The night was ablaze with the chaotic dance of shadows and flickering torchlight. Aemon, with a sword in hand and Ghost by his side, moved with an unnatural grace through the melee. An arrow sliced through the air towards Aemon's face, but with a swift and practiced motion, he intercepted it with his sword, the blade cleaving the projectile in twain.

With a pirouette of lethal elegance, Aemon cut down a wildling who dared to approach him. His sword moved with a fluidity that defied his age, striking true and leaving his foe sprawled in the snow. Meanwhile, Ghost prowled through the battlefield, a white blur of fangs and fur. The dire wolf lunged at a wildling, pinning him to the ground, and with a vicious bite, tore out the man's throat.

The chaos of battle intensified, and Aemon's attention was drawn to a dire situation. A dozen wildlings encircled his great-grandfather, Lord Commander Benjen Stark. Aemon's eyes widened with a fierce determination, and he let out a primal roar that echoed through the tumultuous night. With Ghost by his side, the boy charged headlong into the fray.

Sword and fang worked in tandem as Aemon and Ghost cut a path through the wildling ranks. Aemon's blade found its mark with deadly precision, and Ghost's ferocious attacks left a trail of fallen enemies. The Night's Watchmen, initially surrounded, now found a swift and unexpected ally in the form of the White Wolf and his dire companion.

As they neared Lord Commander Stark, Aemon's strikes became more fervent, a storm of steel that cleared a protective circle around his great-grandfather. The air was filled with the metallic symphony of clashing blades, and the ground beneath them was stained with the lifeblood of the fallen.

Aemon found himself locked in a tense struggle with a young wildling, their blades clashing in a symphony of steel. Despite the wildling's strength, Aemon's skill allowed him to hold his ground. Sensing an opportunity, Aemon swiftly drew a dagger from his back pocket, a blade that gleamed in the pale moonlight.

With a determined thrust, Aemon drove the dagger into the wildling's face, the steel finding its mark with a sickening crunch. The young wildling, just a few short years older than Aemon himself, crumpled to the ground, defeated. Aemon's eyes, though filled with the gravity of the situation, betrayed a steely resolve as he moved with a preternatural confidence.

With a swift command, Aemon directed Ghost, the mighty dire wolf, to the aid of Lord Commander Benjen Stark. The massive wolf moved like a white streak through the chaos, closing the distance with an almost supernatural speed. Ghost lunged at a wildling who had been poised to strike at the Lord Commander from behind. Fangs sank into flesh, and a spray of blood marked the dire wolf's swift, lethal intervention.

Ghost's intervention brought precious moments for Aemon to reach his great-grandfather's side. The Lord Commander, now aware of Aemon's presence, fought with renewed vigor as the boy joined the fray. Aemon's sword and dagger became an extension of his will, each strike precise and calculated.

Aemon and the Lord Commander formed a formidable duo, cutting down wildlings with lethal efficiency. The battlefield echoed with the sounds of clashing steel, the roles of Balerion high above the Wall, and the cries of the fallen. The defenders of Castle Black, inspired by the valor displayed by the young Targaryen and the seasoned Lord Commander, began to turn the tide against the encroaching wildling onslaught.

As dawn broke over the battered landscape, the trio of Ghost, Aemon, and Lord Commander Benjen Stark fought on, rallying the beleaguered Night's Watch. The first light of morning cast long shadows on the battlefield, revealing the aftermath of a night steeped in chaos and conflict. The air was thick with the metallic scent of blood, and the ground was littered with the fallen from both sides.

The Night's Watch, under Aemon's and the seasoned Lord Commander's leadership, had weathered the wildling onslaught's initial storm. The sun's rays painted the snow-covered grounds in hues of pink and gold, a stark contrast to the violent struggles that had unfolded under the cover of night. Ghost, the mighty dire wolf, stood beside Aemon, a silent and formidable guardian.

The skirmishes that remained were sporadic, as the wildlings, thwarted in their initial assault, regrouped for the inevitable nightfall when they would launch another wave. The Night's Watch, having withstood the initial onslaught, began to consolidate their defenses, tending to the wounded and reinforcing key positions.

A sense of weary triumph permeated the air as the Night's Watch surveyed the battlefield. Aemon's young but resolute presence, coupled with Lord Commander Benjen Stark's seasoned leadership, had inspired the men to stand firm in the face of adversity. The Night's Watch had won the first wave, a hard-fought victory that set the stage for the challenges yet to come.

The cheers of victory echoed across the Wall as the Night's Watchmen celebrated their hard-fought success against the wildling onslaught. Amidst the jubilation, Lord Commander Benjen Stark approached Aemon, a stern yet approving look on his face. He checked Aemon's face and looked over his scared left eye. He grabbed Aemon's face gently and turned his face several times to make sure he wasn't hurt.

"Good job, lad," the Lord Commander said, clapping Aemon on the shoulder. "You held your ground. Are you unhurt?"

"Ready for the night to come, Lord Commander," Aemon made sure to say the last part for the men around them to know that Aemon would follow the rules of the Wall rather than focus on his family relations.

"Good man," the Lord Commander said. Aemon knew that Stark men did not mince words; Benjen called him a man because today, Aemon, to Benjen, was just as much a man as any on the Wall. Aemon knew the North, and once a boy was able to fight off a wildling, no one in the North would refute him as a man of the North.

"Are you well, Lord Commander?" Aemon asked in a lower voice so that only his great-grandfather could hear him.

The Lord Commander was as serious as the grave before ruffling up Aemon's hair slightly. "It would take more than a few wildlings to kill me, little wolf."

Aemon smiled; his great-grandfather was Stark through and through, cold as winter, stoic, and unyielding. Aemon, oddly enough, felt more centered by the lack of emotion on his face than if a person was fretting over him. Aemon remembered hearing Tyrion tell him once that Northmen don't smile or laugh in fear the laugh freezes in their throat and kills them, and right now, seeing the face colder than the Wall itself ensured Aemon had no ensuring he had no fatal wounds was as though he was back in Winterfell once more and Uncle Ned was checking over after a difficult spar.

"You might have taken down two hundred men among you and the wolf," the Lord Commander told Aemon slightly.

Aemon, still catching his breath, nodded in gratitude. "Ghost and I did our best."

Lord Commander Stark then turned his attention to the formidable dire wolf at Aemon's side. "And Ghost, my friend, you were a true warrior tonight. Your loyalty to Aemon did not go unnoticed."

Ghost, his fur stained with the blood of fallen foes, wagged his tail enthusiastically, seemingly understanding the words of praise. The bond between Aemon and his dire wolf was evident, a connection that transcended the spoken language.

As the cheers continued around them, Lord Commander Stark maintained his composure, a stoic figure amidst the revelry. "This victory is but the first chapter in the battle to come. We've proven we can withstand their initial assault, but the night is long, and the wildlings won't rest. We must prepare for what lies ahead."

"Aye, Lord Commander!" the men screamed.

"Our victory tonight is a testament to your bravery, but the fight is far from over. We must prepare for the night to come." The men listened attentively as Stark continued, "First, we honor the fallen. We count our dead, give them their funeral rites, and burn their bodies. Let them find peace in the flames." A somber hush fell over the gathered Night's Watch as they began the grim task of accounting for those who had sacrificed their lives in the battle. "Half of you, take the time to rest," the Lord Commander commanded. "The other half will be on watch, preparing for the return of the wildlings. We rotate in a few hours; those who rest now will be ready to stand guard when the night is at its darkest."

It took some time to get the men of the Night's Watch onto the pyre they had made. The Lord Commander stood before the gathered brothers of the Night's Watch, the flickering flames of the funeral pyre casting an eerie glow on his weathered face. The air was heavy with the scent of burning wood and the weight of loss.

"Brothers," he began, his voice carrying a mixture of sorrow and pride, "we stand here today to honor those who have given their lives in defense of the realm. They were not just good men; they were great men, true brothers of the Night's Watch." He gestured towards the pyre where the fallen lay, their forms outlined by the dancing flames. "These men fought through the night, against overwhelming odds, not for glory or fame, but for duty, for the oath we all took when we swore to guard the realms of men." The Lord Commander's eyes scanned the faces of the assembled brothers, each one reflecting the pain of loss. "In the darkest hours, we find our true friends on the battlefield. These were not just comrades; they were our brothers. They served with strength and honor, and they served truly." A solemn pause hung in the air before he continued, "Now, as the sun rises on a new day, we must bid farewell to these valiant souls. Their watches have ended. But let their sacrifice not be in vain. Let us remember their courage, their loyalty, and the bonds that unite us as brothers of the Night's Watch. And now their watches have ended."

"And now their watches have ended!" the men responded.

With a final nod, the Lord Commander stepped back, allowing the flames to consume the fallen. The crackling of the fire seemed to echo the eulogy, a lament for those who had given everything in service to a cause greater than themselves.

A brother ran down from the upper watch tower that was meant to scout for forces. The Night's Watchman, breathless and wide-eyed, stumbled towards the Lord Commander and his assembled men. The Lord Commander's eyes narrowed as he listened intently, his gaze fixed on the messenger.

"They're coming, my lord," the man gasped, "from the south."

"More wildlings?" Aemon asked.

"It's not wildlings. Banners. Banners of Manderly, Glover, Flints, Karstark, Reed, Bolton, and many more. And the dire wolf of House Stark flies high among them."

The Lord Commander's expression shifted, a mix of surprise and concern. "Dire wolf banners? Are you certain? How many men do they bring?"

The Night's Watchman caught his breath before responding, "Aye, my lord. I saw it with my own eyes. Tens of thousands, maybe forty thousand. It's an army, not a raiding party."

"They came to aid us. The North remembers!" a man screamed scream.

"For the Wall!"

As they screamed and prepared for the coming aid and for the night to come, Ghost stood next to Aemon, ready to face the night to come alongside his owner. Balerion roared loudly into the skies above, the massive dragon landing near Castle black as the ground trembled under his foot. He roared louder still towards the south. The North remembers. But a dragon never forgets.

Chapter 14: The Wild Wolf

Summary:

The Northern army meets at Castle Black, and the Wild Wolf meets his grandson, the Black Prince, for the first time.

Chapter Text

The Wall 102 AC

Rickon Stark

Lord Rickon Stark, the formidable ruler of Winterfell, cast his penetrating grey eyes across the desolate expanse of Castle Black. His towering figure, marked by a handsomeness that betrayed the underlying fierceness within, strode purposefully through the shadowed corridors. The hot-blooded essence that coursed through his veins, an inheritance from his grandfather, something his father, Lord Benjen, referred to as "the wolf blood," fueled the fire that burned within him.

Brandon Stark, unapologetically assertive and unabashedly bold, bore the weight of his father's lineage with pride. His father, now the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, recognized the unmistakable trace of untamed spirit flowing through his veins. Rickon was not one to shy away from seizing what he desired, especially when it came to the fairer sex.

The Lord of Winterfell had now crossed the threshold into Castle Black, the ancient bastion standing as a stark reminder of the challenges beset the realm beyond the Wall. Rickon Stark, a commander of men and a Warden of the North, embodied leadership as he marshaled the formidable Northern armies numbering forty thousand strong. Their march to confront the Wildling Invasion and reinforce the Wall was not just strategic; it manifested his unbridled fury. The icy wind nipped at his skin as his gray wolf's pelt cloak blew slightly.

The anger that festered within him, a wrath that smoldered beneath the surface, had propelled the Northern forces through a grueling month-long journey. Gathering the disparate elements of his army had been no small feat, but the urgency of the wildling threat brooked no delay. With an unwavering determination etched on his features, the Lord of Winterfell stood ready to face the impending storm.

As the Warden of the North, Rickon Stark harbored a seething resentment for those who dared to assail his homeland. The audacity of the Wildlings, trespassing on Northern soil, inflicting harm upon women and children, and callously slaying fathers before the eyes of their kin, kindled the flames of his rage. The North, under his vigilant watch, would not yield so easily.

Rickon Stark, the embodiment of Northern might, prepared to lead his armies into the crucible of conflict, fueled not only by duty but by an indomitable resolve to protect his people and preserve the honor of Winterfell. The winds of war howled, and the Lord of Winterfell stood poised at the forefront, ready to unleash the fury of the North upon those who dared to threaten its sanctity.

Lord Rickon Stark, the bold and proud ruler of Winterfell, had harbored a deep yearning to meet his grandson, Aemon Targaryen, for many long years. The desire burned within him, a flame fueled by the anticipation of witnessing the bloodline of House Stark and House Targaryen converge in the person of this young boy. He wished to meet Lyanna's last gift, the last piece of his daughter still breathing in this world. He had sent many, many offers to the Red Keep to have Aemon fostered in the North. Aemon was Lyanna's son, and Lyanna was his sole heir. The position of heir of Lord of Winterfell had fallen on the boy's shoulders, and should worse come to worse, Rickon needed his heir by his side to raise him if he did not father a son on his lady wife. The last time he went for battle, he told Lyanna so many stories of how great her father was, how he would best men with one arm and even killed a bear with a single swing, and yet he had not a chance to see the wonder in Aemon's eyes if he did the same. He had heard that Aemon was more Stark than Targaryen; he had heard he had her smile, dark eyes, and curled black hair. He could already see Lyanna's smile again by retelling Aemon the stories he told his mother for the first time. At five years of age, the boy was strong already, besting squires, and some even claimed he fought like a northerner, with his whole body not afraid of being cut or harmed. Gods be good, Lyanna had made a northern Targaryen, and Rickon had yet to see him. Yet, circ*mstances had conspired to keep them apart, and Rickon doubted he would lay eyes on his grandson anytime soon, especially in the face of the Wildling invasion that gripped the Wall and the North.

However, the gods smiled at him and offered him a reprieve, weaving a tale that saw Aemon Targaryen rise to prominence amidst the chaos. Lyanna's son was here, in the North. Tales of Lyanna's boy showing courage and leadership reached Lord Rickon's ears; he was filled with happiness and pride. Northern lords spoke in unison, extolling Aemon's feats in rallying the houses and raising an army to repel the wildling threat. The boy helped fight off wildlings and had ridden from dawn to dusk, day and night, to fight for the North. A North the boy had yet ever to experience. Pride was not enough of a word when Lord Reed explained it to him, and it was only a fraction of what Rickon felt when he had other lords confirm the stories. Aemon had put them in their place as Cassels of House Stark; as a repressive of House Stark, he helped fight the wildings and helped pave the way towards Winterfell for Rickon to lead the armies. But those blasted wildings continued to annoy his men, forcing them to take far longer than expected to reach Castle Black.

Aemon, a mere five-year-old, defied age expectations. News of him riding Balerion the Black Dread and confronting Wildlings head-on spread like wildfire, immortalized in songs and tales that echoed throughout the North. Rickon, upon hearing these accounts, couldn't contain his joy. Lyanna's son rode a f*cking dragon! Not just any dragon but the Conquoerer's dragon, the same dragon that was the sole reason the North knelt before the Targaryens. When he heard those words, he could already see Lyanna smiling from ear to ear, a wolfish and mischievous smile before telling Rickon that she told him her children would be better than Stark before her. She told him that her children would bring more pride to the North than Rickon's hero and favorite ancestor, Theon Stark, the Hungry Wolf. Lyanna was right, and Rickon used to hate how much his daughter was more correct than he was, but this time, he could never describe how happy he was. His daughter was right, and he wished she could be here to rub his face in her victory. The pride swelled within him, a roaring affirmation that the blood of the North ran strong in his grandson's veins.

The laughter and roars of Lord Rickon echoed through the halls of Winterfell as he reveled in the unexpected heroism of Aemon Targaryen. The boy, guided by a spirit that mirrored his mother, Lyanna, had not only united the North but had set forth to confront the encroaching threat on his own. In the heart of Rickon Stark, any doubts about the Targaryen lineage faded away, replaced by a deep satisfaction that Aemon embodied the fierce essence of House Stark. The boy was not sour then like his father; no, he was northern like his mother. That was needed if Rickon were to set things right by naming him heir unless a son is born to him, but until that is done, no man would question Aemon as heir. And his c*nt of a brother, Bennard, could not say anything against Aemon being the heir. God be good. He laughed so hard when word spread from lord Reed in Winterfell when Bennard heard that Aemon rode the Black Dread. Bennard had fought hard against naming Aemon heir because Aemon was Targaryen, in favor of Bennard being his heir, but once the Black Dread was announced, all color drained from his brother's face. Rickon could recall that the last time he laughed so hard was when Lyanna convinced him to cut open Bennard's sheets, stuff horse sh*t inside, and sow it up once more. Bennard was complaining about it for two moons before he found out, and Lyanna, the little minx, kept her act up better than any murmur Rickon had ever seen.

To Rickon, the Targaryen name mattered less than the indomitable spirit that Aemon displayed—an echo of his daughter's legacy. In the face of adversity, Aemon Targaryen had become a symbol of Northern resilience and determination. For Lord Rickon Stark, this unexpected turn of events was a source of immeasurable joy as he witnessed the emergence of a new hero in the ongoing saga of the North.

As Lord Rickon Stark led his vast armies, a formidable force numbering forty thousand men, toward the Wall, a roar shattered the icy silence of the North. More thunderous than erupting volcanoes and fiercer than ten thousand storms, the sound reverberated through the frigid air. An ominous noise, initially mistaken for the heralding of a brutal winter storm, stirred apprehension among the troops. Most men fell to their knees and covered their ears, but Rickon would not allow himself to, no, he was the head of the North and the North was strong.

Yet, as the cacophony persisted, the black silhouette of a mountain emerged on the horizon, casting its shadow over the landscape. The realization struck Rickon like a bolt of lightning — the thunderous sound and the towering black mass were the same: Balerion the Black Dread. The legendary dragon, thought by many to be a creature of myth, now manifested itself in the realm of men.

As the Northern armies closed in on the colossal beast, the enormity of Balerion became increasingly apparent. The dragon, with wings that spanned wider than the Wall itself, dwarfed everything in its vicinity. The sheer magnitude of the Black Dread left the men in awe, for Balerion surpassed even the colossal Wall in size and stature.

Rickon Stark, however, found amusem*nt in the irony of the situation. A hearty laugh escaped his lips as he contemplated the absurdity of it all. His grandson, Aemon Targaryen, the brave young boy who had captured the hearts of Northern lords and warriors alike, now rode atop the back of the legendary Black Dread. The contrast of the dragon, larger than life, and the young Aemon at its helm struck a chord of doubt in Rickon's heart. The dragon was not old and weak like many claimed he would be, seeing as Vhagar had grown so large, too large, that her roars were long drawn out like the groaning of an old ship in the waters. But Rickon saw no age on the black beast; he saw no weakness; he saw a dragon ready to claim all seven kingdoms over again. He saw a creature of conquest waiting for a conqueror to mount him and take the world. Lyanna would be so proud of Aemon. Rickon wished Lyanna could have just lived five more years to see her son atop such a beast and claim that her son was better than all the world's sons. She would have probably said something stupid in her cups, something along the lines of her c*nt being a c*nt worthy of conquerors. He loved his daughter; she was crass and blunt, a northern beauty through and through; Prince Daemon was not worthy of his daughter. But neither were the Tullys, but they were closer and far easier to keep in line for Rickon than the rider of the Blood Wyrm.

The enormous wings pressed against Balerion's sides, emphasizing his overwhelming power. His horns, from the great ones on top of his head to the smaller ones on his chin and cheeks, were patterned in a way that suggested he had seen many years of Westerosi history come to pass. These horns, each as black as the night, straightened and drawn back, large enough to be seen from below. They possessed smaller horns on their chin, cheeks, lower jaw, and rows above their brow. No matter how straight or twisted, every horn added to the dragon's intimidating appearance and sense of ageless strength.

The scales of obsidian that adorned Balerion's powerful form appeared to have reclaimed an unmatched splendor. The limited sunlight was reflected by each scale, giving the dragon an unearthly radiance that brought out its immense magnificence. The horns, which had become worn down over time, now shone with a terrifying edge, indicating a complete regeneration.

The scales of obsidian that adorned Balerion's powerful form appeared to have reclaimed an unmatched splendor. The limited sunlight was reflected by each scale, giving the dragon an unearthly radiance that brought out its immense magnificence. The horns, worn down over time, now shone with a terrifying edge, indicating a complete regeneration.

Balerion radiated heat so intense that it seemed like the dragon was fire. The distorted mirage from the air shimmering around him heightened the bizarre ambiance of the cavern. Even though Rickon had no fear of men and no fear of anything, both living or dead, he couldn't help but feel a little bit scared and in awe of such a legendary creature. The creature was so hot that it melted the snow and ice surrounding Balerion's body, revealing green grass beneath. The area surrounding the creature, which was as big as the Wall, was so hot that Rickon started to sweat and felt like he should take off his cloak made of wolf fur. Rickon wanted to take off his cloak in the North, near the Wall, with the days getting colder due to winter around the corner. He wondered how Aemon could even ride the beast with such heat.

In that moment, as the Northern armies stood beneath the colossal wings of Balerion the Black Dread, Rickon embraced the surreal nature of the scene. The laughter echoed across the snowy plains, a testament to the unexpected turn of events that had unfolded before him. Aemon Targaryen, the five-year-old hero, had become an indelible part of Northern lore, riding a dragon that surpassed the very Wall they sought to defend. The North, it seemed, was destined for a new chapter in its history, with the Black Dread soaring through the skies as a symbol of both fear and hope.

The heavy gates of Castle Black creaked open, heralding the arrival of Lord Rickon Stark and the formidable Northern army. As the Stark forces marched into the courtyard, they were met by Lord Commander Benjen Stark, a figure shrouded in the black garb of the Night's Watch. Behind him stood a contingent of brothers, their expressions veiled in the somber demeanor befitting the sworn protectors of the Wall.

Lord Stark and Lord Commander Stark looked at one another and said nothing for some time. Rickon's father, Benjen Stark, left Winterfell on horrible terms. Rickon recalled his father telling him he had a dream that Rickon needed to become Lord of Winterfell. Rickon felt his father had abandoned him right after the man had forced him into a marriage with Gillian Glover, especially after getting his younger brother Bennard married to a woman that Rickon truly loved, Margaret Karstark. After they had argued for a moon, Benjen left for the Wall a few years after Lyanna, his only child, was born.

His countenance stoic and commanding, Lord Rickon Stark approached his father with a measured nod. "Lord Commander," he greeted, his voice devoid of emotion yet laced with a respectful acknowledgment of the office held by Benjen Stark. Rickon wondered how long it would take for him to have the urge to punch his father in the face; it usually did not take long for the urge to come upon him.

In response, the Lord Commander's gaze met his son's, and he returned the courtesy, addressing him as "Lord Stark."

The following exchange of words was as frigid as the winds that swept across the Wall. Unyielding in his demeanor, Rickon wasted no time expressing his dissatisfaction. "How the f*ck did you allow wildlings across the Wall. If wildlings have managed to scale the Wall, it reflects poorly on you. Perhaps you're not as good at your duties as one would expect. You're getting old."

Benjen Stark, equally unyielding, retorted without hesitation. "And what does it say about your prowess as Warden of the North when your grandson must rally the North to build an army against the wildlings? How does it feel to be upstaged by a five-year-old?" The words were sharp, biting through the frosty air, revealing the tension that lay beneath the surface.

The two Starks continued their verbal sparring; each remark delivered with the precision of a master swordsman. Their words were laden with criticism and accusation as if they were strangers rather than kin. The coldness between them was palpable, reflecting the weight of duty and the strain that divided their roles.

Yet, amid this verbal clash, a subtle shift occurred. The corners of their mouths twitched, betraying the masks of indifference. A shared understanding, a familiarity born of blood, overcame the icy exterior. The tension dissipated into a sudden warmth, and before long, the Stark father and son found themselves enveloped in a genuine, albeit brief, moment of connection.

The laughter that followed echoed through the stone walls of Castle Black. Despite their harsh words, the two Starks embraced each other in a heartfelt hug. It was a silent acknowledgment of the complexities that bound them together—duty, lineage, and the inescapable ties of family. The North, it seemed, had a way of forging connections even in the harshest of circ*mstances.

In the shadow of Castle Black's towering walls, Lord Rickon Stark and Lord Commander Benjen Stark exchanged a gaze that held a complex blend of familial warmth and the weight of duty. The winds carried with them the unspoken history between father and son as Rickon broke the silence.

"I missed you, old man," Rickon said, a rare trace of vulnerability softening his stoic exterior.

Benjen, the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, met his son's gaze with a nod. "You seem to have ruled Winterfell and the North well in my absence, Rickon. Where is Bennard? I would think he would have come to fight these overgrown c*nt hairs."

A genuine smile tugged at the corners of Rickon's mouth. Rickon always found it funny that his father could make a jest, but somehow, it was more serious than truth, as ugly as Maegor was cruel.

"Bennard is overseeing Winterfell in my stead. He's proving himself a capable ruler."

Benjen's eyes lingered on his son for a moment before he spoke, the weight of responsibility evident in his words. "There must always be a Stark in Winterfell."

Rickon nodded, acknowledging the age-old saying that bound the Starks to their ancestral seat. "Aye, there must."

Turning his attention to the practical matters, Benjen addressed the Night's Watch brothers standing behind him. "Help the Northern army settle in. We need their strength against the wildlings."

As the Night's Watch moved to assist the Northern forces, Benjen shifted his gaze to the assembled Northern lords. "We'll be heading to the mess hall. My men are discussing strategies and plans for dealing with the Wildlings. Join us; your insights will be valuable."

With that, the two Starks led the way into Castle Black, a procession of Northern lords and Night's Watch brothers falling in behind them. The mess hall awaited—a place where alliances would be forged, strategies devised, and the shared burden of defending the realm against the Wildling threat would be shouldered collectively. Under the watchful eyes of father and son, the North prepared to face the challenges ahead.

The echoes of heated voices reverberated through the stone corridors as Lord Rickon Stark, Lord Commander Benjen Stark, and the Northern lords entered the bustling mess hall of Castle Black. The din of argumentative Night's Watchmen created a chaotic symphony in the air, a testament to the atmosphere's urgency and tension.

As they entered, the scene unfolded before them like a tableau of uncertainty. A few hundred Night's Watchmen, clad in their black attire, stood in clusters, their expressions a mix of determination and apprehension. The biting chill of the North compelled them to wear wolf-skin pelts, the coarse fur serving as a meager defense against the relentless cold.

The mess hall, ordinarily a place of communal gatherings and shared meals, had transformed into a makeshift war room. Tables were strewn with maps, hastily drawn battle plans, and the residue of numerous discussions. The flickering light of torches cast dancing shadows on the faces of the Night's Watchmen, emphasizing the gravity of their situation.

Rickon's keen gaze swept across the room, taking in the enthusiasm and urgency that gripped the Night's Watch. He observed the diversity among them—men from different backgrounds and walks of life, united by their solemn oaths to defend the realm. The clash of opinions, the spirited debates, and the occasional flash of frustration created a palpable tension in the air.

Amidst the sea of black-clad figures, the wolf-skin pelts added a primal and raw element, a stark reminder of the harsh environment beyond the Wall. The men, their breath visible in the cold air, spoke with conviction, each advocating for a course of action that they believed would safeguard the Wall and the realms of men.

As Rickon and Benjen approached, the noise level diminished, and a few pairs of eyes turned toward the newcomers. The Lord Commander's authoritative presence seemed to command a momentary respite in the enthusiasm. Rickon's observant gaze lingered on the faces of the Night's Watchmen, recognizing the weariness etched into their expressions.

The mess hall, a crucible of strategy and resolve, awaited the guidance of those who led. With the Northern lords now in attendance, the convergence of their insights and the Night's Watch's seasoned experience formed a tenuous alliance, a bulwark against the impending threat from beyond the Wall. The North, a realm forged in ice and fire, stood united against the wildling onslaught, and the mess hall bore witness to the crucible where decisions would be made, alliances strengthened, and the fate of the realm hung in the balance.

The mess hall resonated with the vibrant voices of the Night's Watch and the Northern lords, a tempest of conflicting opinions that clashed like thunder in the stone chamber. The Northern lords screamed for one thing while the Night's Watch screamed the reverse.

"The Wall is our best defense! We hold the high ground, and it's a natural deterrent against the wildlings," shouted a Night's Watchman, his voice cutting through the air with an edge of desperation. "We cannot abandon the Wall!"

A grizzled Northern lord, his features etched with the hardships of the past month's skirmishes, retorted with equal enthusiasm. "If we remain here, they'll just keep coming. The wildlings won't tire out—they have the numbers! Waiting is a death sentence for the North."

The argument intensified, each side defending its stance with a conviction born of survival instincts and duty. A seasoned Night's Watch ranger, his face etched with the lines of countless watches, bellowed, "We've held the Wall for centuries! We must protect it, not abandon it to satisfy the whims of impatient lords."

His brow furrowed in frustration, a Northern lord countered, "Duty won't matter if the Wall crumbles under the weight of a hundred thousand wildlings! We need to take the fight to them."

Lord Rickon Stark, a towering figure amid the enthusiasm, raised his voice above the din. "Enough! The Night's Watch has stood here for a hundred generations, and it was with their help that we pushed back every wildling invasion, both known and unknown. I will be damned before allowing you all to kill each other before the wildlings have their f*cking chance! The brothers of the Night's Watch and the North have fought bravely and together, and we have more times than each of us has fingers. We find our true friends, our true brothers, on the battlefield. And no man is as cursed as a man who kills their brother. No man is as cursed as a kinslayer. So all you stop fighting like children and worry about those ice-encrusted, savage c*nts beyond the Wall! "

No man said a word or uttered a single reply for some time. Before Lord Manderly spoke up. "Rickon," was his first utterance. Rickon had known the man well; he had fostered with the Manderlys longer than most other Houses. Rickon would never admit it, but his father was smart to make him foster with the most prominent Houses of the North to strengthen his ties with the Lords and their heirs. "Winter is coming. The fields are torched. There will be no food or resources to wait out the storms, even if we kill all the wildlings there are. Frankly, New Castle would not survive one year of winter, let alone the size expected. We need to end this quickly so that I can go home and help my castle and the people in it and of White Habor survive. I do not wish to make it about me, but if White Habor falls during the winter, it would be far harder for me and mine to get ships from the Reach to provide shipments of food. The longer we wait here, the longer it will be for all of us to survive the coming storms."

The Night's Watchmen and Northern lords turned their attention to Lord Rickon, awaiting his guidance. "We can't afford to let the wildlings dictate the terms of this conflict. The Wall may be our stronghold, but we can't wait for them to wear us down. We need a plan that combines the Wall's strategic advantage with our united forces' resilience."

The mess hall of Castle Black became a tempest of heated arguments, each side entrenched in their convictions, as the Night's Watch and the Northern lords clashed in a cacophony of discord. The air crackled with tension, and the fervor of the debate escalated to a point where reason seemed to have abandoned the room.

The Night's Watchmen, steadfast in their commitment to defend the Wall, shouted down the Northern lords who advocated for a more proactive approach. "We've held the Wall against countless invasions! We won't abandon our post now!" yelled an impassioned Watchman, his voice drowning out the counterarguments.

On the other side, the Northern lords, their faces etched with frustration, countered with a sense of urgency. "Sitting behind this Wall won't save us if the wildlings keep multiplying! We need to act, and act now!" shouted a determined lord, his words echoing in the hall.

Both seasoned leaders, Lord Rickon Stark and Lord Commander Benjen Stark, attempted to restore order. Rickon's voice, authoritative yet measured, cut through the clamor. "Enough! We are allies in this fight, not enemies. We need a plan that considers both strategies' strengths."

Benjen, the Lord Commander, added his voice to the plea for reason. "Calm yourselves. We need unity, not division. The North must stand as one."

But their attempts at moderation fell on deaf ears. The arguing only intensified, reaching a crescendo that rendered the room a tumultuous sea of discord. Rickon's stern gaze swept across the hall; his attempts to quell the unrest met with defiant stares and hardened resolve.

The atmosphere grew thick with frustration and impatience. Benjen's commanding presence, honed through years of leading the Night's Watch, struggled to impose order. "Brothers, lords, enough of this!" he boomed, the weight of his words carrying the authority of his office. However, the tumult persisted, drowning out the call for reason.

The creaking of the opening doors seemed to echo louder than before, drawing the attention of every eye in the mess hall. The sudden hush that fell over the room was as profound as the silence that precedes a winter storm. The sound of footsteps followed, deliberate and purposeful, resonating like a drumbeat against the stone walls.

In the wake of the collective anticipation, Lord Rickon Stark turned to witness the entrance of the mysterious figure. As the murmurs of "the White Wolf" and "the Prince of the North" cascaded through the room, the assembly parted to make way for the approaching presence.

At the head of the table, there emerged an unlikely leader—a five-year-old boy with a crown of unruly dark curls atop his head. Clad in the somber black garb of the Night's Watch, the boy's diminutive stature seemed incongruent with the weight of expectation that accompanied his entrance.

Walking confidently at his side was a creature that commanded awe and respect—a dire wolf, majestic and silent as it moved. The wolf's fur, as white as the snow that blanketed the North, framed eyes the color of blood, an unsettling contrast that bespoke beauty and an otherworldly presence. The dire wolf, a silent guardian, matched the boy's pace with almost supernatural grace.

It took Rickon a moment to process the scene before him—a child and his dire wolf, emerging from the shadows to command the attention of both Night's Watch and Northern lords alike. The room, gripped by an atmosphere of wonder and uncertainty, bore witness to the unfolding tableau.

The boy's eyes, as solemn as an old man's, met Rickon's gaze. His eyes were dark, darker than black, yet when the candlelight flickered just right, they were no longer deep gray but a deep purple. The intensity within those eyes betrayed a wisdom that belied the boy's tender age. The whispers continued, resonating with reverence and curiosity as the Prince of the North, a child with the power to rally both men and beasts, stood poised at the precipice of destiny.

Rickon Stark's discerning gaze fell upon the young boy, and in that moment of silent appraisal, he recognized the familiar contours of Stark features etched upon the child's face. The dark and curly hair mirrored Rickon's own, a familial trait passed down through generations. Though tender in age, the boy's countenance bore the stoic demeanor that characterized the Stark bloodline.

A subtle difference in cheekbones hinted at the mingling of Targaryen lineage. Yet, the essence of House Stark prevailed, making the boy a living testament to the union of two powerful houses. As still as a winter's night, the Prince of the North projected an aura of cold composure, an emotionless veneer that belied the depths of his potential.

Despite the gravity of the situation, Rickon couldn't help but find amusem*nt in the undeniable handsomeness of the boy. A chuckle escaped him as he marveled at this five-year-old's thought of becoming a man of striking allure. The irony of a child radiating such preternatural charm amused Rickon, who couldn't help but acknowledge the inherent beauty bestowed upon the boy by his lineage.

As the subtle humor lingered, Rickon's thoughts meandered into the realm of legacy. Aemon Targaryen, the grandson born of his beloved daughter Lyanna's union with Prince Daemon Targaryen, held within him the weight of Winterfell's future. The boy who would inherit not just the ancient seat of House Stark but also the indomitable spirit that characterized the North.

The question of inheritance took a more personal turn in Rickon's contemplation. Would Aemon inherit not only the responsibilities of lordship but also the more intricate aspects of Rickon's character—the thirst and lust for life and love that defined the Stark lord? The thought brought a wistful smile to Rickon's lips.

Lyanna's son, the embodiment of her spirit and Targaryen blood, stood before him—a potential bridge between two noble houses, a living testament to the interconnected destinies of House Stark and House Targaryen. In the quiet of that moment, Rickon's eyes remained fixed on the boy who bore the weight of history and the promise of the future—a grandson, a Stark, and the heir to Winterfell.

The resounding echo of Lord Commander Benjen Stark's voice cut through the lingering tension in the room, demanding an answer from the enigmatic figure who had just entered. "Aemon, where have you been?" Benjen inquired, his tone commanding attention.

Aemon Targaryen, as composed as the winter night, responded evenly, "Atop the Wall, Lord Commander. The wildlings sent scouts to ascertain if Balerion was perched above. They see a giant black mass that breathes fire and think it is a cunning idea to get closer to it."

"Says the lad who rode the damn thing here," Lord Manderly replied to chuckles across the room. At that moment, the candlelight flickered, and Rickon had forgotten how fat his friend had gotten. His friend had married a Karstak cousin, and his children inherited the Stark looks for it, but the man had a mother from the Reach, and his brownish blonde hair and well-trimmed beard showed it well.

Aemon turned to the lord, a half smile on his lips; he chuckled to himself, just a lone chuckle, before responding to the lord. "Balerion is very territorial of who he likes, my lord. Very selfish in that regard. If he likes you, no one else could have you. I think the same could be said about a few lords and the pies at their dining halls," He said, turning to Lord Manderly's stomach, just enough for the northern lords to get who he was talking about. Rickon chuckled just a bit; the boy's got balls, that he could not argue. He would expect nothing more of Lyanna's son, of his grandson. The entire hall, even Lord Manderly, began laughing.

As if in response to Aemon's words, Balerion roared with a ferocity that rivaled erupting volcanoes. The loud sound reverberated through the hall, prompting many to cover their ears to shield themselves from the overwhelming force of the dragon's call. As Aemon made his way to the head of the table, the Northern lords celebrated his presence, clapping him on the shoulder in a show of respect and admiration.

"What of the scouts, boy?" Lord Commander Benjen asked.

Aemon, with a calm demeanor, revealed, "Shot down by arrows before reaching the tree line, a mile north of the Wall."

Benjen nodded approvingly at the swift response to the Wildling scouts. Aemon, then, turned to Lord Rickon Stark, his great-grandfather, lowering his head in a gesture of respect. "Lord Stark," he greeted, acknowledging Rickon as the Lord of Winterfell rather than revealing their familial bond.

Rickon, however, responded with a grunt and a laugh. "Stop talking like you're from the South, Aemon. I'm your grandfather, and I'll have none of that 'Lord Stark' nonsense. Call me anything but that. I'll beat you bloody and clip you behind the ears if you call me that again."

Aemon chuckled at the gruff exchange, a hint of amusem*nt glinting in his eyes. The generational banter between grandfather and grandson painted a familial picture amidst the weighty matters. Rickon, perhaps to shift the mood, invited Aemon to join them at the table where plans were laid out for the next steps against the Wildlings north of the Wall.

The debate in the mess hall continued to escalate as Northern lords and Night's Watchmen clashed over the best course of action against the Wildling threat. A vocal Northern lord argued passionately for taking the offensive, insisting they leave the Wall and march north to attack the Wildlings head-on.

"Our lands are ravaged; the North is half on fire! We need to end this quickly and return to our homes," he declared, urgency dripping from every word.

A Night's Watchman countered, emphasizing the effectiveness of the Wall as a perfect defense. "Just last night, we held off hordes of Wildlings by ourselves. A thousand or so Night's Watchmen held back a hundred thousand wildlings. The Wall works. We could wait for them to keep coming at the Wall. Prince Aemon held the Wall for half the night as Castle Black was fighting below; with him and Balerion, we could allow them to kill themselves every time they attacked. Few casualties to our men, and a message the Wall will continue to stand firm for another thousand years."

But another Northern lord, echoing the ominous Stark words, interjected, "A thousand years? It would take us another thousand years to finish this battle if we wait for them to tire themselves. We can't afford to wait."

The Night's Watchman, undeterred, argued that abandoning the Wall's defense was foolish. "What's the point of having the Wall if we're just going to abandon it and charge into battle? We should let the Wall do its job."

A lord of the North, perhaps impatient with the debate, asserted, "We need to return to our lands and put an end to this invasion quickly."

In response, a Night's Watchman retorted with a touch of sarcasm, "Do you think we want this to last forever? The Night's Watch shields the realms of men. We wish to help the North; we defend it."

The sarcasm didn't go unnoticed, and a Northern lord shot back, "Oh yes, the Night's Watch has been a tremendous help, allowing wildlings to cross the Wall and harm our people. What a generous defense you've provided."

Then, with a sudden roar that cut through the stillness like a winter storm, Lord Rickon Stark addressed the assembly. His voice, loud and prideful, echoed off the stone walls of Castle Black. "Winter is coming!" he declared a stark reminder of the impending peril. He admitted, with a touch of disdain, that the Wildlings now knew winter this far north better than the lords of the South. His tone turned passionate and bold as he continued, "The Wildlings have survived worse winters. They would endure this one more easily than we would. The southern lords wouldn't last a night when winter comes. We, the northern lords, would last a month, but the Wildlings have lasted lifetimes." Rickon emphasized the urgency of their situation, insisting that they couldn't afford to wait for the Wildlings to succumb to the harshness of winter. "We do not have the luxury to wait for them to kill themselves," he proclaimed, his words hanging heavy in the air. "We will attack the Wildlings, for the brothers we lost last night!" The Night's Watch roared in approval once he said those words.

Rickon noticed that Aemon said nothing the whole time. He sat with his dire wolf, the white beast as big as a horse, as it nudged his shoulder, and Aemon read over some papers before him. Rickon thought the boy was far too young to even begin to understand the papers has read of some of the wildlings' actions both beyond the Wall and South of it. Aemon thought of something before writing it down, crossing it out, and reworking it.

Aemon then grabbed another parchment and drew battle plans that were not bad at all, from what everyone could tell, a rough draft at best, but nothing the lords could not debate and polish off for an attack. But Aemon still said nothing; he showed the paper to his dire wolf; the beast shook his head no and then put its snout on the far right of the page, showing a possible wildling encampment. Aemon nodded his head before addressing several drawings of northern troops and drawing lines indicating certain formations and directions. The dire wolf made no sound as it placed its paw on the lower right corner of the parchment, and Aemon thought of something. Aemon then drew battle formations that seemed to close around and pincer around the point the wolf pointed out.

Lord Commander Benjen Stark, ever wise, pointed out Aemon's apparent contemplation for the hall to hear. "Aemon," Benjen addressed his great-grandson, "what are you thinking?"

Rickon, eyes fixed on the white direwolf by Aemon's side, remained silent, curious to see what thoughts were brewing in the young Targaryen's mind.

Aemon took a moment before turning his attention to Lord Glover and Lord Karstark. He posed a hypothetical question to the gathered lords in a measured tone. "If Lord Stark were to die hypothetically, who would rule Winterfell?"

On the brink of responding, Rickon felt a nudge from his father, signaling him to withhold his answer. A flicker of suspicion crossed Rickon's mind. Was Aemon, like his father Daemon Targaryen, playing the political game, manipulating the circ*mstances to his advantage?

But Lord Commander Benjen, wise and patient, held Rickon back, allowing Aemon to elaborate on the thought he had set in motion. The hall, filled with expectant Northern lords, awaited Aemon's words with a mixture of curiosity and intrigue. In the quietude that followed, the air was pregnant with the potential revelation that could reshape Winterfell's leadership.

Lord Karstark spoke first, his voice even as if what he was to say was more true than the sky being blue. "It would go to Lord Bennard, naturally, my prince."

Lord Glover looked confused as he raised his eye skeptically. "We are not Targaryen's here; we do not wed sibling to sibling, and last I checked, it was my daughter married to the Lord of Winterfell. Gilliane would rule Winterfell after her husband passes, gods forbid. She is married to Lord Rickon, and as by right, they have no children, and she would rule for the family."

Lord Karstark's voice boomed as he addressed Aemon. "Bennard Stark and my daughter shall rule Winterfell if, gods forbid, Lord Stark were to die!" His assertion hung in the air, a declaration of his family's claim to the seat of Winterfell.

Lord Glover, incensed by this proclamation, roared in disagreement. "Gilliane Glover, Lord Rickon's wife, is the rightful Lady of Winterfell! The position belongs to her!"

The disagreement escalated into a fiery debate, the air thick with tension as the two lords clashed over the potential successor to the lordship of Winterfell. Lord Karstark argued for Bennard Stark, Rickon's brother, while Lord Glover vehemently asserted that it should rightfully pass to his daughter, Gilliane Glover.

As the verbal sparring intensified, the two lords began approaching each other, flaring tempers. The hall buzzed with frenzied energy as onlookers caught glimpses of the impending clash. Men from both sides hurriedly moved to intervene, attempting to keep the escalating confrontation from turning physical.

"Bennard is the rightful heir!" Lord Karstark insisted, his face red with fervor.

Lord Glover, equally passionate, countered, "Gilliane is the Lady of Winterfell by marriage, and she will rule!"

The exchange reached a boiling point, with Lord Karstark and Lord Glover inching closer to each other, their voices thundering through the hall. A swirl of emotions—anger, pride, and the fierce determination to defend their respective claims—enveloped the room.

Amidst the chaos, men tried to intervene, creating a barrier between the two lords. The clash of bodies and the cacophony of shouts and protests filled the hall as the debate transcended words, threatening to spill over into physical confrontation.

Aemon's nod to Lord Commander Benjen Stark triggered a thunderous response, as Benjen slammed his fist on the table, the resounding echo silencing the hall. All eyes turned to the trio with Stark features—Benjen, Rickon, and Aemon—as the tension in the room peaked.

In a moment of strategic clarity, Aemon addressed his grandfather, Lord Rickon Stark, inquiring about the heir to Winterfell and the line of succession. After a contemplative pause, Rickon turned his gaze to Aemon and then to the assembled lords.

"Lady Lyanna was my only child with my wife," Rickon began, his voice cutting through the stillness. "After her, Aemon follows in the line of succession. With Lyanna gone, Aemon Targaryen is the heir to Winterfell. If I were to die, it would make Aemon Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North."

"My lord, he is a Targaryen. You would end the House Stark's rule over the north?" one of the lords argued.

Rickon looked to the lords in attendance and made his words clear. "Until I have a son, Aemon Targaryen is my heir. If Aemon does not inherit the Iron Throne, I will begin talks with the Crown so that he is named a Stark if I have no other male heirs. If we have a daughter, we will discuss the need for Aemon to marry if it comes. The boy is a Targaryen; marrying his aunt is rather tame and has been done in the Stark line before."

The Lord Commander looked to his son. "You thought of this before."

"I have no son; I had much thought of what needs to be done if the worst should come. I may be of the wolf's blood, old man, but there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, and one connected to the Crown would be better for the North. "

The declaration hung in the air, a revelation that shifted the dynamics in the room. The assembled lords, previously embroiled in a heated debate, now faced a new reality—the direct line of succession and the potential future ruler of Winterfell.

Silence gripped the hall, and the gaze of those present shifted toward Aemon and his imposing white direwolf. The significance of the moment weighed heavily, and a palpable sense of uncertainty lingered.

The room, still reeling from the revelation of Aemon's potential inheritance, was shrouded in confusion when Aemon, breaking the silence, declared, "This is what we get the wildlings to do."

Rickon, blunt as ever, cut through the ambiguity. "What do you mean, boy?" he demanded.

Aemon, his gaze unwavering, began to unravel his strategic plan. "By putting the succession and leadership of the North in doubt, I got two of the most prominent families in the North at each other's throats," he explained matter-of-factly. "Once a position of leadership is vacant, everyone rushes to fill it. It often comes to a blow, and that's when opportunities arise."

Rickon, growing impatient, urged Aemon to get to the point. "What are you suggesting, Aemon?"

Aemon met Rickon's gaze, the intensity in his eyes revealing a calculated mind at work. "If we can assassinate the King Beyond the Wall without anyone knowing, there will be a power vacuum. The Wildlings will be left fighting amongst themselves to choose a new leader. They will fight each other if we are lucky; half of them will die, and we could win this all in one battle. We strike when they are weakened from infighting and finish the fight." Rickon, though still puzzled, listened as Aemon elaborated. "It keeps most men ready if things ever get worse," Aemon concluded, his plan laid bare before the assembled lords.

Amidst the conflicting opinions that reverberated through the hall, one lord, his voice tinged with anger, cried out, "This is not the Northern way to scheme and manipulate!"

Another lord, suspicious of Aemon's Southern heritage, added, "He's a Southern, born and bred in deceit and cunning!"

Lord Reed roared as all turned to him. The shorter man was calm. "He rallied the North, you c*nt! He brought us together. He defended the Wall. He is of the North! The Prince of the North!"

"It is not our way to scheme and f*cking plot. How can a boy who is heir to Winterfell give such a Southern idea? There is no honor in getting our enemies to fight one another!" another lord screamed.

Aemon, unfazed by the accusations, responded with a resolute voice that carried through the room, "My mother is of the North, and I will do anything for the North. If I have to use Southern tactics to help keep the North safe, then so be it."

A dissenting lord, impassioned by his sense of honor, shouted, "There is no honor in letting them fight amongst themselves!"

Aemon, raising his voice with little emotion, countered fiercely, "Honor? Do you think the dead care about songs of honor and valor? How is it more honorable to die when there is no hope than making sure that as many lords and ladies are saved?" His words hung in the air, challenging the traditional notions of honor. Aemon, with unyielding conviction, continued to shout, "If you wish to hear songs of honor and valor in this fighting, the dead would not hear the songs. How is it more honorable to die when there is no hope than to make sure that as many lords and ladies are saved as possible? If every one of you hates me, if everyone curses me, I would not care because I kept you alive to do so in the first place!"

Lord Glover, a seasoned elder, and father to Gillian Glover, Aemon's grandmother, regarded Aemon with a measured gaze. His eyes swept across the gathered lords representing the diverse branches of Houses Flint, Bolton, Cassel, Cerwyn, Dustin, Locke, Manderly, Mormont, Reed, Ryswell, Slate, Stout, and Umber. In a moment of contemplative silence, he spoke with a voice that resonated with authority.

"Prince Aemon brought a f*cking dragon," Lord Glover declared, his eyes lingering on the boy. "He rallied the entire North to come here, and he's only five. Yet, he fights for the North as much as any man in this room. He has defended the North and devised a plan better than the rest of us." Acknowledging Aemon's strategic prowess, Lord Glover continued, "The boy is fighting for our homes and our families. If there's a way to reduce the number of lives lost, then that's what we're going to do."

The weight of Lord Glover's words hung in the air, casting a sobering reflection on the dire situation the North faced. Lord Rickon Stark, in turn, looked to his father-in-law with a fierce determination. "The wildlings outnumber us at least two to one," Rickon declared loudly to the assembled lords. "If there's a way to minimize the loss of lives, then that's the path we'll take."

Amidst the strategic discussion, Lord Rickon Stark raised a critical question, "How are we going to sneak someone into the group?"

"They would spot us far before we reach the camp," another added.

Lord Commander Benjen Stark, with a note of resolve, responded, "We have many wildling clothes from our skirmishes in Castle Black."

Lord Glover, adding his insights, remarked, "We need a small group. Too many would draw too many eyes since they'll be coming from the Wall."

Lord Rickon, his mind already working on a plan, suggested, "A small group of no more than four could sneak in and out. Perhaps start a fire some ways away to draw attention elsewhere."

As the men deliberated on who would be part of this covert mission, the discussion was abruptly interrupted by Balerion's thunderous roar. The room fell silent as everyone turned their attention to the imposing dragon.

Taking advantage of the moment, Aemon seized the opportunity to speak, "I'll go with Ghost."

A murmur of protests and arguments erupted among the gathered lords. Aemon, undeterred, asserted, "I've killed a wildling of similar age to me. I can use the clothes to sneak in, and Ghost can lead me around the camp, coming from the North instead of making it seem like I came from the Wall."

Lord Rickon Stark looked to his grandson and spoke evenly. "Are there any other suggestions?" He spoke to the other lords, trying to find a way to get his grandson away from his mission to get himself killed. The boy had just pointed out the likelihood of what would happen should he and Aemon die, and now he wished to enter a quest to get half of it true.

"I will cross the Wall. They would never suspect a child ready to kill him. If worse comes to worse, I could escape on Ghost's back," Aemon returned, his cold eyes boring into the angry ones of Rickon.

Rickon looked to his grandson, and for a fleeting second, he felt he was looking at Lyanna all over again. The dark curled hair, the resolute near angry face. This was his daughter's boy. This was her last gift to him. "You will not cross that Wall. "

Rickon looked into Aemon's angry eyes. The boy did not have Lyanna's wolf's blood, the same angry temper she shared with Rickon, but the boy had stubbornness. The boy was Lyanna if she were a dragon rider. The boy was more Stark than any Stark had any right to be. Rickon wanted to be happy. This is all he wanted in an heir. This was all he prayed for at night when he thought no one was listening or around. An heir who would fight and kill for the North and Aemon was that. The way his eyes bore into him, Rickon half thought he needed to put the boy in his place, but he was happy that the boy was bearing his fangs. The boy was made for the North. But he couldn't allow the boy to prove his claws just yet. He could not allow the boy to leave the Wall to die.

Aemon looked on angrily at Rickon, and Rickon wanted to smile as the boy spoke, but anger was all he could feel. Rickon watched as Aemon's fist opened widely, stretching each finger as far as they could as if he was angrily grabbing the air; the boy was not clenching his fist. He opened his palms wide, just like Lyanna, just like Rickon himself. "I will fight. Fighting for the North is more a birthright for me than Winterfell itself. I will do what is needed of me!"

Lord Rickon's voice thundered through the room, vehemently arguing, "I will not allow you to cross the Wall alone, Aemon."

Aemon, resolute, countered, "I won't be alone. I'll have Ghost with me."

His frustration mounting, Lord Rickon roared at Aemon, "Your job is to stay behind the Wall, where you'll be safe!"

Aemon, undeterred, pointed out, "I've crossed the Wall before. I've fought deserters and wildlings."

Lord Rickon, turning to his father, Lord Commander Benjen Stark, demanded an explanation. "Did you let a child cross the Wall?" he screamed.

Lord Benjen Stark, a stoic figure, remained silent, a response that spoke volumes. When pressed, he acknowledged, "The boy fought well and saved many lives."

Fury etched across his face, Lord Rickon bellowed, "He's a child!" Now, he wished to strike his father; the urge had come upon him at last, more so than ever before.

Lord Benjen, attempting to justify, explained, "Everyone here knows Aemon fought wildlings, defended the Wall, and united the Northern army. The boy unitedyour army. The boy defended the Wall from waves of the wildling horde." Rickon hated it when his father showed no emotion; it felt as if the conversation was with the Wall itself as if his father was ice-made flesh.

Rickon, incredulous, pointed out, "He has a dragon capable of burning entire kingdoms to the ground! Look at the thing on the Wall! It won't follow him. Aemon went across the Wall without it!"

Aemon interjected, his voice determined, "I will fight for what is right."

Lord Rickon, adamant, insisted, "You will stay here where it is safe!"

Aemon, raising his voice, declared, "I will do my duty as the heir of Winterfell."

Finally, Lord Rickon, unable to contain his emotions, snapped, "I will not lose you again, Lyanna!"

The room fell silent at the unexpected outburst; the weight of a father's fear laid bare. Lord Rickon, momentarily confusing Aemon with his late daughter, revealed the depth of his paternal concern and the haunting specter of past losses that still lingered. As the echoes of his words resonated in the room, a tense atmosphere enveloped the Stark family. No words were said after the outburst. No words needed to be said.

Chapter 15: Death Beyond the Wall

Summary:

Aemon sneaks into the wildling camp.

Chapter Text

The Wall 102 AC

Aemon Targaryen

Under the shroud of night, Aemon Targaryen moved with a purpose, navigating the sprawling camp of the Northern forces with the skill of a shadow. Exhausted from the arduous journey, the lords slumbered in their makeshift tents, unaware of the young heir's secret departure.

Aemon knew the Night's Watchmen were vigilant, their watchful eyes scanning the perimeter for any signs of the impending Wildling threat. It was under the cover of weariness and watchfulness that Aemon seized his chance.

Ghost, the massive white dire wolf, padded silently at Aemon's side, his keen senses attuned to the night. The moon's pale glow provided just enough illumination for Aemon to make out the dim outlines of the camp. The distant murmur of slumbering men and the occasional snap of a distant twig echoed through the stillness.

Aemon navigated through the labyrinth of tents, keeping to the shadows, his movements calculated and deliberate. Ghost, a spectral presence in the moonlight, moved gracefully, his senses heightened and alert. As Aemon and Ghost closed in on the location of the deceased Wildling around his age, the air carried the faint scent of death. Ghost, guided by an instinctual understanding, led Aemon to the corpse. The fallen warrior lay still, a silent witness to the chaos that had befallen them.

Aemon, now crouched beside the body, carefully examined the Wildling's attire. His hands worked swiftly, exchanging his Northern black garb for the rough-hewn garments of the deceased. The task was morbid, but necessity blurred the lines between honor and survival in the face of imminent danger.

The night embraced Aemon's stealthy endeavor, and Ghost's presence provided an eerie assurance. The transformation was underway, and Aemon, now clad in the ghastly attire of a corpse, became a ghostly figure himself, blending with the shadows as he prepared to infiltrate the Wildling camp.

The night air hung heavy as Aemon Targaryen and Ghost approached the inner gate, the threshold that would lead them beyond the Wall. To their surprise, two imposing figures emerged from the shadows—Lord Rickon Stark, Aemon's grandfather, and Lord Commander Benjen Stark, Aemon's great-grandfather. The stark contrast in generations was apparent, yet the determination in their eyes mirrored that of the young Targaryen scion.

Aemon, undeterred by the unexpected encounter, drew closer with Ghost at his side, the dire wolf's eyes fixed on the elder Starks. Despite the vast height difference, Aemon's gaze met theirs with a resolute stare. Aemon could see both his grandfather and great-grandfather looking at the wildling clothing he now wore.

Aemon was silent for a time, his face stone, he forced himself to sound sure and resolute but he felt anything but that. "I will cross the Wall and kill the King Beyond the Wall myself," Aemon declared with a firmness that echoed through the silent night.

Lord Rickon Stark, visibly angered yet begrudgingly impressed, muttered, "Without a doubt, Lyanna's son." He cursed quietly, acknowledging that Lyanna would likely be proud of Aemon's defiance.

Lord Commander Benjen Stark chuckled softly, his weathered features softened by the moonlight. "Lyanna would have done the same thing," he remarked with a wry smile. He then turned to his son. "I wouldn't have put this act passed you a decade or two ago."

"I am older and wiser now," Rickon returned to his father without taking his angry glare away from his grandson.

"Older, yes," Lord Benjen said, refusing to agree on the wiser portion of the statement. Rickon turned to his father and was going to say something but decided that focusing on Aemon was thrice as important as his slightly wounded pride.

Lord Rickon, still seething, retorted, "I don't know much about how Targaryens act, but you, Aemon, are surely as stubborn as any Stark there has ever been."

Aemon, steadfast in his resolve, declared, "You will not stop me."

Lord Benjen, his laughter lingering, mused, "I doubt any man in the world could stop a Stark once their minds are made up."

Lord Rickon, letting out a curse, added bitterly, "The only man who ever did had the largest dragon ever seen, and Aemon is currently riding that very same dragon. Only fire and death made flesh could get a Stark to do anything that we otherwise won't do."

Aemon's gaze shifted downward, a somber acknowledgment of his perceived outsider status. Aemon knew that his grandfather would eventually have a son and heir, Cregan Stark, arguably the most important since the Targaryens conquered Westeros, but Aemon was currently heir, and he would take pride in that. "And yet I'm not a Stark. That's why I need to do this. I need the North to know that I may not have the name, but I will fight for the North just as hard!"

Lord Rickon, sensing the weight of the moment, approached the young Targaryen and knelt down, meeting Aemon's eyes. Tenderly, he traced the scar on Aemon's left eye, a silent testament to battles fought and scars earned."You may not have my name, but you have my blood," Rickon spoke, a melancholic smile playing on his lips. Aemon looked up fully once more, and for a split second, he did not see Rickon Stark the Wild Wolf, but rather, he saw Eddard Stark the Quiet Wolf, a brother to yet another Wild Wolf of House Stark. Aemon wondered why his grandfather was not remembered as a Wild Wolf. Perhaps Cregan's reign was so focused on that his father's was mostly forgotten; he had time to think upon this, and that time was not now.

Aemon, lifting his gaze, responded with a wry grin, "Anything before the word 'but' is horse sh*t." He replied using his mother's words, the words, the only words he knew his mother said often.

Rickon couldn't help but bark out a laugh at the bluntness of Aemon's retort. "True enough," he conceded. "Having Stark's blood is more important to me than you having the Stark name." Aemon's smile widened a flicker of warmth in the chilly night air. Yet, the gravity of the situation remained, and Rickon, ever the concerned grandfather, suggested, "Maybe I should tie you to a chair and lock you in your room."

Lord Benjen, joining the exchange, interjected, "That's what you tried with Lyanna when she wanted to go to the tourney at King's Landing. It didn't work. By the time you found out, she was already halfway through the Riverlands with your procession."

Rickon grumbled and cursed under his breath, "Her coming south cost me my daughter."

Benjen, ever the voice of reason, countered, "But it gained you a grandson, Rickon."

Rickon, frustrated, snapped back, "And that very same grandson is trying to get himself killed!"

The tension between father and son was palpable, each grappling with the weight of their respective concerns for Aemon. Benjen, looking at his son, offered a sage perspective, "You can't be angry at him for doing the same thing you would have done at his age."

The air resounded with the echo of Rickon Stark's curses as frustration gripped his senses. His hands clenched into fists, craving an outlet for his turbulent emotions. The icy Wall stood as an indifferent witness to his turmoil. In a surge of anger, Rickon struck the frozen surface; his grunted frustration barely audible over the vast expanse of the North.

Turning to Ghost, the massive direwolf by his side, Rickon spoke with a mix of command and plea. "Protect Aemon. Bring him back safely." With eyes as red as blood, Ghost met Rickon's gaze and nodded in silent agreement.

Addressing his father, Lord Commander Benjen Stark, Rickon signaled for the outer gate to open, a decision that marked the beginning of a perilous journey for Aemon. Rickon turned to his grandson as the gate creaked open, revealing the unforgiving terrain beyond the Wall.

In a moment of fierce embrace, Rickon hugged Aemon tightly, the unspoken weight of their parting evident in the unyielding grip. Whispering words of both caution and affection, Rickon urged Aemon to return safely before daybreak. The ultimatum was clear – once dawn arrived, the Northern army would march, with or without the King Beyond the Wall defeated.

Aemon, the fearless five-year-old, mounted Ghost's back. The dire wolf, a formidable creature almost the size of a war horse, stood ready. With a final nod and a reciprocal hug, Aemon and Ghost galloped through the open gate and ventured beyond the Wall. The night swallowed their forms as they disappeared into the wilderness, leaving Rickon to grapple with the uncertain fate that awaited them in the frozen expanses of the North.

In the eerie silence of the North beyond the Wall, Aemon and Ghost continued their journey atop the dire wolf's back. The desolate landscape bore the scars of the recent battle against the wildlings on the Wall, arrows scattered like twisted remnants of a forgotten conflict. The grown burned from Balerion's flames, charred and blackened further than Aemon could see.

Aemon's eyes settled on one of the few arrows that had survived the night unburnt. A spark of an idea ignited within him. He plucked the arrow from the ground and, with a determined glance at Ghost, thrust it into his own shoulder. A muffled grunt escaped his lips, the pain searing through him, but Aemon stifled any cries that sought release.

Realizing that a solitary arrow wouldn't suffice to convey the extent of his ordeal, Aemon dismounted Ghost and threw himself onto the ashy ground. Intent on creating an appearance of a survivor barely clinging to life, he dirtied his clothes and face with the remnants of burnt wildlings. Never attuned to Aemon's cues, Ghost followed suit, dusting parts of his pristine white fur with the ashes of the fallen.

Aemon, unsatisfied with his level of distress, sought more convincing damage. Approaching the still-active flames, he carefully burnt parts of his clothing, enhancing the illusion of a harrowing escape. However, he sensed it still fell short of the desired effect.

His gaze fell upon the scar on his face, reflected from a shield that still had enough shine to reflect a blurry image, a remnant of battles fought before. The realization struck him — this mark would lend credibility to the narrative of a miraculous survival. With a determined resolve, Aemon traced the scar with a charred piece of fabric, deepening the lines as he sought to craft a visage that spoke of fierce resilience in the face of overwhelming odds.

Concealed within the folds of his clothing were hidden daggers, tools that now served a different purpose. Determination etched across his features, he unsheathed one of these blades and prepared to inflict upon himself wounds that would tell a story of survival.

With measured precision, Aemon began to cut, starting from the top of his left eye and carving a path down past the existing scar, ending at the nape of his neck and down to his left shoulder. Each incision, a testament to his resolve, drew forth grunts of pain that he swallowed, biting down on his fingers to stifle any expression of agony. Careful not to jeopardize his vision, Aemon ensured the wounds were severe enough to appear life-threatening yet not debilitating.

Blood trickled from the fresh wounds, painting a narrative of a boy who had narrowly escaped the clutches of death. The pain, a silent companion to his journey, remained concealed beneath Aemon's stoic facade. He mounted Ghost, the dire wolf who had become both ally and protector, laying down upon the creature's back as if unconscious.

The display of a wounded boy clinging to life unfolded as Aemon rode Ghost slowly toward the wildling camp. The frigid air sought to freeze the blood that escaped his wounds, and the journey was calculated to allow the crimson liquid to either congeal or dry, concealing the fresh nature of the injuries. It was a delicate dance with fate, a gamble that the wildlings, even the cannibals among them, might see Aemon not as prey but as a symbol of survival worthy of celebration. The odds were in Aemon's favor, but the treacherous North held secrets and uncertainties that even a dragon rider could not fully predict.

Amidst the haunting shadows cast by the trees beyond the Wall, Aemon Targaryen and Ghost pressed forward into the wilderness of the North. The darkness of the night cloaked their approach, making them appear as fleeting specters in the frozen realm.

It wasn't long before the keen eyes of the wildlings detected a figure moving among the trees, and soon the air was filled with the echoing cries of a wounded soul returning from the Wall. Aemon played his part convincingly, lying limp on Ghost's back, eyes closed as if unconscious.

As the wildlings gathered around, a mix of curiosity and wariness marked their expressions. The dire wolf carrying Aemon made it convincing enough, and most would figure Aemon for a warg; a common enough and important presence drew both awe and caution. However, the arrival of a man, possibly a warg, changed the atmosphere. His recognition of the bond between Aemon and Ghost seemed to grant the pair acceptance among the wildlings.

"He's got a wolf for a bonded," the warg declared, his voice resonating through the cold air. "The boy's a warg."

One looked at the dust and soot on Aemon and the light white patches of fur that were dirtied by smoke and grime. Aemon's hope that all thought Ghost had pulled Aemon from the flames was believed by anyone who wasever willing there. "Never seen a warg so young before, especially one with a dire wolf loyal enough to bring the boy back from the fires."

"f*cking crows!" one roared as the other cursed the Night's Watch. "Lad's breathing, though, thank the gods for that."

A murmur of understanding swept through the gathering wildlings as they regarded Aemon with newfound respect. The man continued to speak, interpreting the wounds as the aftermath of a perilous journey beyond the Wall. Aemon, feigning unconsciousness, listened intently to the discussions around him.

"He's been to the Wall and back," the warg explained, examining Aemon's fabricated injuries.

"Look at the cuts and the blood. He's lucky to be alive."

Aemon's heart raced beneath his still exterior as he maintained the illusion, letting the wildlings weave a narrative around the wounds he had intentionally inflicted upon himself. The ruse had to hold; his success in navigating this intricate dance with the wildlings depended on it.

The debates among the wildlings intensified as they noticed Aemon's tender age, some expressing concern over a child engaging in the harsh battles where black fire rained from the skies like streams of a waterfall, but had no end like a sea of flame. However, others argued that the boy's strength and resilience, evidenced by his return from the Wall and the wounds he bore, spoke volumes about his mettle.

As the wildlings debated, the warg stepped forward and addressed Ghost, the dire wolf, with a knowing gaze. "Come with me, white wolf. We'll tend to your friend's wounds," he spoke in a voice that resonated with both authority and understanding. "Someone get Torrhen! He'd want to see this!"

Aemon, keeping up the appearance of unconsciousness, subtly communicated with Ghost, urging him to follow the warg. The dire wolf, initially on edge, observed the warg's movements and, sensing no immediate threat, acquiesced. Ghost accompanied the warg to a tent designated for healing, where the murmurs of the camp receded into the background.

Inside the tent, the warg and a few others inspected Aemon's wounds, their experienced hands deftly assessing the severity. The atmosphere was a mixture of concern and curiosity, with some wildlings expressing doubts about the gravity of Aemon's injuries. One even pointed out Aemon was lucky to have kept his eye. One looking at the deep cut around neck and shoulder. One person pointed out that Aemon probably used up all the luck he had for the rest of his life surviving the battle.

"He's just a child," one voice murmured, skepticism singing the words. "Why the f*ck was he fighting? He was far too young to fight; he would have done nothing fighting."

Another replied seriously, "Maybe the wolf? He probably thought the wolf would be more than enough to make him a good fighter?"

"And now the boy is dying and wounded for it," they countered.

"And yet the wolf brought him back. The wolf did what the boy thought it would: fight and protect him," the warg argued.

"He fought for us, no matter his age," another argued, emphasizing the significance of Aemon's presence. The warg looked to Aemon and watched as a healer tried to burn the neck wound, but the fires did nothing to the flesh and fully stopped the bleeding. There was chaos in the tent as they questioned how the boy's flesh did not burn.

Aemon, being unable to see, keeping the appearance of being unconscious, could only hear as an older woman, most likely a healer spoke up. "The gods have blessed the boy." Aemon could hear every person quiet at her words; he assumed she had to have much respect for all the wildlings to quote so quickly. "They blessed him to be immune to the flames; more likely, he is unconscious from the smoke he breathed rather than the flames from the great black beast on the Wall that touched his skin."

She instructed them to get some salvs and needles; mayhaps they could close the wounds and pray to the gods to keep the boy alive. Once the needles came close, Aemon could feel through their bond that Ghost was rearing to attack. He did not trust their sharp objects near Aemon.

The warg, undeterred by the discussions, directed Ghost to stand watch. The dire wolf, a vigilant guardian, kept a close eye on the proceedings, ready to intervene if needed. Aemon, maintaining the guise of unconsciousness, listened to the exchanges, realizing that his fate lay in the hands of these wildlings, uncertain allies in the North's unforgiving wilderness.

Aemon feigned grogginess as he opened his eyes, the flicker of consciousness returning. The tent was dimly lit the glow of a nearby fire casting dancing shadows on the fabric walls. As Aemon attempted to sit up, he heard a deep and resonant voice catching his attention. Turning his head, he beheld a giant of a man towering over him with wild red hair and a formidable presence, his hair and beard wild and untamed.

The man spoke with a mixture of curiosity and amusem*nt. "Well, look at this. Survived the Wall, did you? With a dire wolf, no less." The man's eyes twinkled with interest as he regarded Aemon, assessing the boy's condition. "I was told about a survivor but could not believe it without seeing it myself. But I don't recall sending a child to the Wall to fight, not one as young as young anyway. My sister's son had gone forth south the Wall, but he is a bit older than you, lad."

Aemon said nothing for some time, coughing a little due to dry mouth from breathing through his mouth. He thanked Arya and Sansa once again, and then Margaery and Arianne for making sure his acting wasn't sh*t. "I forced my brother to take me and Ghost. I needed to protect him."

The man said nothing but gave a sad smile. "How old was your brother?"

"I don't know," Aemon said sadly. " I think he told me this was his third summer and going to be his fourth winter."

"It makes the man older than you by at least twenty years," he said seriously. "You sure he's your brother and not your father."

"Unless he f*cked his own mother then, aye, I'm sure. My mother birthed the two of us, but they were different fathers. My brother says my mother comes from Bael the Bard; he says Bael had two children after the Stark King," Aemon said.

The redhead laughed at Aemon's words. "That makes your blood of the last King Beyond the Wall, boy. Makes you special."

Aemon looked to the ground. This felt so familiar to him, lying to a King Beyond the Wall; it felt like he was back as a black brother once more, talking to Mance Rayder once more. He was sent to kill a King Beyond the Wall once more; it had been so long since he had done it last. "It didn't make my brother special when the black beast brunt us."

"No, but the wolf of yours made you special." The man then looked to Ghost, who looked definitely to the redhead man and was ready to kill him to protect Aemon. "If I had fifty men as brave as you with your dire wolf, the Wall would have fallen already. Brave wolf nearly killed a dozen men who tried to heal you. Braver lad fighting alongside your brother to the end." Aemon, feigning discomfort, winced as if in pain. He attempted to rise but then settled back down, claiming pain in his stomach. The large man chuckled heartily and gestured for him to stay put. "No need to rush, lad. Take your time."

"I didn't greet you." With a mischievous glint in his eye, Aemon decided to play along and offered a cheeky response. "Can't disrespect you, or my mother will come back and beat me bloody," he quipped, a sly smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

The giant man roared with laughter, appreciating the boy's humor. "Your mother sounds like quite the woman. What's your name, boy?" he inquired, his tone warm and inviting.

Aemon looked at the man and could see the face of a ghost from his past, making it far easier for him to get his answer. Far easier to get the name he wanted when the man before him looked almost identical to the man in question. Aemon, quick on his feet even in deception, thought on his feet. "Tormund Giantsbane," he declared with a hint of pride, adopting the name of a renowned wildling leader. The giant man raised an eyebrow, intrigued by the audacious choice.

"Well, Tormund Giantsbane, I'm Torrhen Wolfsbane. A pleasure to meet you, lad," he said, extending a massive hand for a handshake. This was the King Beyond the Wall. The two shared a firm grip, sealing the playful introduction between the boy who wasn't a Stark and the giant wildling whose curiosity had been piqued. The giant of a man, Torrhen Wolfsbane, leaned forward with genuine interest, his laughter lingering in the air. "Giantsbane, eh? How'd you earn such a name?" Torrhen asked, the mirth evident in his voice.

Aemon, fully committed to his ruse, grinned and began his tale. "A year back, my elder brother and I were out in the wilderness, just surviving. We stumbled upon a giantess who thought my brother was a baby giant and me... well, a runt. She took us to her cave, thinking we needed feeding, and started nursing us like pups." Aemon chuckled as he spun the tale, his eyes twinkling with mischief.

Torrhen's booming laughter filled the tent, and he slapped his knee in delight. "Nursed by a giantess? Ha! "

Aemon nodded, weaving more details into his story. "That night, we overheard her talking in old tongue. She thought I was weak and planned to... you know, end me. My brother, who knew the old tongue, told me what was going to happen. So, we did what we had to do. Killed her and made a run for it."

Torrhen's laughter continued, echoing through the tent. "You killed a giantess, did you? Bravo, Tormund Giantsbane! Not many can say they've done that and lived to tell the tale." After some time of speaking, Torrhen looked at Aemon and nodded. "Rest for now, lad. We'll speak once daybreaks. I have questions, and gods willing, you have answers for them, but for now, you rest." Aemon agreed and laid down, closing his eyes before making his breathing heavy and large like one in deep slumber. Torrhen waited, ensuring Aemon was asleep before he left.

As Torrhen Wolfsbane exited the tent, the crisp northern air greeted him. Aemon, still feigning slumber, listened intently to the distant murmurs of the camp. Torrhen's hearty voice carried through the night, creating a sense of camaraderie among the wildlings.

Outside the tent, the curious had gathered, seeking insight from the renowned Torrhen Wolfsbane about the mysterious boy he had found. The questions buzzed like restless insects, eager for morsels of information.

"What do you think of the lad, Torrhen?" one voice asked.

Torrhen, his silhouette outlined by the soft glow of the campfires, responded thoughtfully. "He's been through much, that's for certain. Lost a brother, killed a giantess, or so he claims. There's more to his tale, but he's smart—keeps his secrets close. Can't blame him for not trusting."

The crowd nodded in agreement, acknowledging Torrhen's wisdom. Another voice chimed in, "Think he'll speak about what happened at the Wall?"

Torrhen chuckled, his laughter carrying over the night air. "Not yet, but we'll give him time. The lad needs to feel he can trust us. We'll find a way to get the truth out of him." As Torrhen dispersed the gathering crowd, he left explicit instructions for the guards posted outside Aemon's tent. "Don't disturb me or the lad. He's been through a lot, and I need him well-rested for what comes next. We'll talk in the morning. Keep an eye on him; there might be more to this boy than meets the eye."

With that, Torrhen Wolfsbane disappeared into the shadows of the wildling camp, leaving Aemon to continue his charade of slumber while the wheels of deception turned around him.

The bond between Aemon Targaryen and Ghost was palpable in the dimly lit tent. Aemon, still feigning rest, whispered his instructions to the large dire wolf. Ghost's keen eyes met Aemon's, a silent understanding passing between them. Aemon's plan required Ghost to create a diversion, drawing the attention of the wildlings away from their tents and, more importantly, Torrhen's tent.

"Go to the campfires, Ghost. Grab some firewood and start a blaze near the tents and supplies," Aemon urged, his voice hushed but determined.

Ghost, ever vigilant and loyal, observed Aemon for a moment longer before giving a nod of agreement. The dire wolf turned gracefully, slipping through the tent's entrance at the back without making a sound. The darkness of the night swallowed Ghost's form as he moved with stealth, guided by his instincts and Aemon's commands.

As Ghost ventured into the wildling camp, Aemon remained in the tent, waiting with bated breath. He knew the success of his plan hinged on Ghost's ability to create a convincing distraction. The muffled sounds of the night surrounded him, punctuated by distant laughter and the crackling of campfires.

In the stillness of the tent, Aemon strained his ears for any signs of Ghost's actions. The air seemed charged with anticipation as he envisioned the dire wolf moving with purpose, executing the plan that could provide Aemon with the opportunity to slip away unnoticed.

The minutes felt like an eternity, and Aemon could only hope that Ghost's diversion would be effective, casting shadows of chaos over the wildling camp and affording him the chance to navigate through the darkness undetected.

Aemon moved stealthily through the shadows, his dark clothing blending with the night as he followed Ghost's lead toward the distant fires. The chaos in the wildling camp intensified as panicked shouts filled the air, and the flickering flames danced against the snowy backdrop. Ghost, his white fur a contrast against the darkened surroundings, continued his strategic efforts to set more fires, diverting attention away from Aemon's clandestine movements. The white fur blended in with the white snow, making it nearly impossible to see him, especially as the flames were too bright to look anywhere beside them.

The young Targaryen had an innate ability to navigate through obscurity, slipping through the tents and structures with an uncanny grace that belied his tender age. The fires, both intentional and unintentional, provided intermittent illumination, casting eerie shadows that Aemon expertly used to his advantage.

The sounds of commotion reached Aemon's ears as he skirted the edges of the chaos. Wildlings rushed to and from, their attention consumed by the unfolding crisis. Aemon seized the opportunity to move through the camp, his small form almost imperceptible amid the confusion.

Ghost's actions proved invaluable, creating a diversion that allowed Aemon to traverse the camp's outskirts unnoticed. His movements were deliberate, each step carefully placed to avoid detection. Aemon felt a surge of adrenaline as he approached the outskirts of the camp, where the fires had drawn most of the wildlings' focus. With each passing moment, Aemon distanced himself from the center of the tumult. The night swallowed him whole as he ventured into the darkness beyond the reach of the flickering flames.

Aemon moved through the camp, navigating the chaos he had helped create. The light of the fires danced in his eyes as he searched for Torrhen's tent. He stealthily maneuvered around the tents, taking care not to draw attention to himself. The unsettling glow of the fires cast eerie shadows on the snowy ground.

As Aemon traversed the maze of canvas, wooden, and leather structures, he came across tents filled with supplies, weapons, and other essentials for the wildlings' survival. In an orchestrated effort, he set each significant tent ablaze, sending flames licking into the night sky.

It was a meticulous operation that took the better part of two hours. The scent of burning materials permeated the air, blending with the shouts and cries of the disoriented wildlings. Aemon pressed on, undeterred, until he finally identified Torrhen's tent.

To his advantage, the tent was unguarded, the men preoccupied with extinguishing the flames consuming their camp. Aemon slipped inside the tent, his movements silent and purposeful. The interior was nearly empty, illuminated by the faint glow of the surrounding fires.

Torrhen lay asleep, unaware of the impending danger. Aemon drew a wildling's knife, a cruel reminder of the night before when he had taken a life to maintain his disguise. He hesitated for a moment, contemplating the weight of his actions. With a heavy sigh, he inched closer to Torrhen, the knife poised for a silent strike.

The young Targaryen steeled himself for what needed to be done, the gravity of his mission weighing heavily on his conscience. As he stood over the slumbering Torrhen, Aemon prepared to leave a mark that would set off a chain of chaos among the wildlings or, rather, set up the infighting.

Aemon stood over the sleeping Torrhen Wolfsbane, wildling knife in hand, ready to strike. But as he hesitated. Aemon turned before seeing a figure taller than himself. He looked on at gray eyes, long face, and dark hair. Aemon looked at the figure; the face was familiar, but he could not place it. The man was Stark, and there was no doubt. He looked sad, brooding even.

Aemon looked at the man, confused; how did anyone follow him here? This mission was supposed to be solely himself. Besides Rickon and Benjen, there were no Starks this far south, especially since Aemon's great uncle Bennard and his sons should be at Winterfell.

The man looked at Aemon, his face serious and cold, with no emotion on his stoic face. "Last time I saw you, you looked far older."

Aemon said nothing. He looked to the man and looked to Torrhen, hoping the sound of another voice did not wake the man. Torrhen had not moved. Aemon looked confused before looking at a shield, freshly cleaned, most likely from a former brother Torrhen had killed. Aemon looked to the shield and could only see Torrhen's sleeping form and Aemon himself; Aemon could not see any Stark man where the man should have been in the reflection.

"Who are you, and what are you doing here?" Aemon forced out in a whisper.

The man looked sad for some time before a weary smile graced his lips, one so slight that Aemon doubted that it was much different than his neutral expression. "A husband to a murdered wife. Father to one King, who was beheaded. A father of two strong wolves and two strong she-wolves. An uncle to the King who should have always been."

Aemon looked at the man, but instead of showing surprise, his eyes narrowed. Eddard Stark, his former father, appeared more real than the dark, barely illuminated tent. "Lord Stark."

"I was your father, Jon," Eddard replied. "I would think your greeting would be more warm than that."

"My name is not Jon. It never was," Aemon said coldly. "You couldn't even tell me the truth of my name."

Eddard sighed as if resigning himself to this fate. "Robert would have killed you if he found out."

"And yet you choose him over me. You choose a whor* monger, the rebirth of Aegon the Unworthy, over your own flesh and blood." Aemon said through gritted teeth. He looked to Torrhen and realized he said that low enough for the man to not hear him.

"I wanted to keep the peace, Aemon, something we both have tried and failed at doing," Eddard argued neutrally.

Aemon wanted to scream at the top of his lungs but settled for a harsh whisper. "And yet I never failed my family!"

"No, you didn't. You merely killed your aunt." Eddard argued.

Aemon walked up to his father and, for a second, was going to throw him against the wall before stopping and looking definitely into his eyes. "You have no right to look down on me for doing what I did."

Eddard said nothing for some time, looking mournfully at Aemon. "I'm not looking down on you. Sacrificing your own honor to kill the woman that you loved and swore to serve in order to save the Seven Kingdoms. I am proud of you."

"I did not love her," Aemon lied to himself.

Eddard smiled sadly as he placed his hand on Aemon's shoulder, and even when talking to a memory, Aemon could feel the warmth in his father's hands. "You could lie to me but never to yourself. You have married the Tyrell and the Martell, but you had fallen for them just as I did Cat. But I did not love Cat first; it was Ashara I fell for and who had my heart, just like your wildling women and Daenerys Targaryen. Five times you fell in love, that's five more times than many."

"Five times I watched them die before my eyes," Aemon said bitterly.

The tension hung in the air like a winter storm as Aemon Targaryen confronted the spectral figure of Eddard Stark in the recesses of his mind. Aemon, the reincarnation of Jon Snow, stared angrily at the apparition of Eddard. "Why didn't you tell me who my mother was? Why didn't you tell Jon Snow that his mother was Lyanna Stark?"

Eddard, defending his actions, replied with a heavy heart, "I protected you, Aemon. I loved you like my own son. I raised Jon Snow with love and care."

Aemon's eyes burned with frustration. "If you loved me, you would have supported me. You wouldn't have let me go to the Wall."

Eddard countered, "It wasn't my decision to send you to the Wall. You made that choice."

Aemon scoffed, "We both knew the limited options for a bastard, especially one hated by Lady Stark."

Eddard insisted, "You swore off your birthright willingly."

"I did not know I had a birthright to swear off!" Aemon shot back. He turned back to see Torrhen sleeping; he thanked the gods that he was screaming in a whisper, barely low enough for the sleeper to not wake. "I care less about the throne and more about being lied to. You, the man who raised me, chose a whor*-mongering drunk, willing to kill children, over your own son! Robert killed my brother and sister. He was going to kill Daenerys!"

"But he didn't kill you," Eddard replied. "Every night, I feared waking to see Robert marching North to find you and know you were Rhaegar's son. I could barely sleep knowing the two of you were in the same castle when he asked me to be Hand."

"He and the Lannisters destroyed the realm," Aemon argued. "I had to fix it. All of it. You chose your best friend over your son."

Eddard, his voice laden with sorrow, explained, "I made the choices I believed were right to protect you."

Aemon retorted, "By sending me to the Wall? By not telling me the truth about my mother? About my heritage?"

Eddard stood firm, "I couldn't risk your life. You needed to be kept safe."

Aemon, consumed by anger, cried out, "Safe? I would have faced anything for you, for my family. Instead, you chose secrecy and betrayal! I wouldn't have acted on the knowledge; I would have put the family first, but you took that choice from me!" Aemon tightened his fist on his dagger; he had no time for this. "You're not here. You're dead. Gods, even worse, you are not even born yet. You have no hold over me. This ends here and now." Aemon walked closer to Torrhen, ready to slit his throat.

Eddard's stern gaze pierced through Aemon's resolve, and his voice echoed in Aemon's mind. He looked at Aemon's dagger in his hand. He looked to the sleeping man before Aemon. "This is not honorable, Aemon. Killing a man in his sleep goes against everything you were taught."

Aemon retorted, "I do this for the North. To protect it."

Eddard shook his head disapprovingly. "The ends don't justify the means. There's no honor in taking a defenseless man's life."

Aemon argued passionately, "How is it more honorable to let hundreds of thousands die on the battlefield? I'm protecting the North,Father."

Eddard reminded him, "Your duty is to uphold honor, even in the face of adversity."

Aemon countered, "My duty is to the North, to the living. I will protect what I can."

Eddard pointed out, "You're killing a defenseless man."

Aemon's frustration boiled over. "You killed Arthur Dayne without honor!"

Eddard replied calmly, "I tried to raise you to be better than myself."

Aemon snapped, "You cursed your own honor by protecting me, naming me your son. This is no different. I will curse my honor to protect the North."

Eddard argued, "You were an innocent baby."

Aemon pressed on, "Torrhen Wolfsbane is not innocent! He killed every Stark who swore to the Night's Watch in the last three decades!" Aemon stood resolute, his eyes locked on the sleeping Torrhen Wolfsbane, a knife gripped tightly in his hand. Eddard's ghostly figure remained, pleading with the young Targaryen.

Eddard spoke with conviction, "Aemon, you cannot resort to this. Killing a man in his sleep is not honorable. It will make you no better than Robert or Tywin."

Aemon, unmoved, retorted, "Don't compare me to those men. They killed my brother and sister. This is different. I'm protecting the North."

Eddard insisted, "A man's word and honor are all he has. Once you lose them, you're no better than a monster."

Aemon, growing impatient, countered, "I've lost my honor for the greater good, Eddard. I won't let Torrhen destroy everything we've fought for."

Eddard pleaded, "There's always another way. Killing a defenseless man is not the solution."

Aemon, determined, argued, "I've faced worse than this, and I won't let honor stand in the way of protecting the living."

Eddard, trying to appeal to Aemon's sense of morality, said, "Think of what Lyanna would say. Would she want her son to lose his honor like this?"

Aemon fell silent, contemplating the weight of his actions. Finally, he spoke, "If sacrificing my honor is what it takes to prepare for the Long Night, then so be it."

He walked past the fading illusion of Eddard, leaving behind the spectral figure, and approached the sleeping Torrhen with a resolution that echoed in the quiet shadows of the tent. Winter came for Torrhen Wolfsbane. Winter came for another failed King Beyond the Wall.

Under cover of darkness, Aemon hurried through the sprawling wildling camp; his senses heightened to the chaos beginning to unfold. The fires he and Ghost had set in the distance flickered like distant stars as panic and confusion spread among the unsuspecting wildlings.

As he approached the outskirts, Ghost, the ever-faithful dire wolf, met him. Aemon took a moment to inspect the majestic creature, ensuring Ghost had suffered no harm during their clandestine mission. Satisfied that the wolf was unharmed, Aemon followed Ghost's lead as the dire wolf guided him toward a discarded wildling sword.

Aemon's hand closed around the hilt, feeling the cold, rough metal beneath his fingers. Ghost's red eyes met his, a silent communication passing between them. Aemon nodded, acknowledging the significance of the weapon in his hand as a means of defense.

With Ghost by his side and the borrowed sword in hand, Aemon allowed the direwolf to lead him to the edge of the camp. The chaotic scene unfolded around them as wildlings scrambled to extinguish the fires and understand the sudden turmoil that had befallen their community.

As the night progressed, the chaos heightened, and Aemon knew he needed to slip away before the first light of dawn revealed the full extent of the disturbance. He moved through the shadows, using the confusion to his advantage, determined to escape the wildling camp unnoticed and continue his mission to protect the North.

Aemon first heard people speak about Torrhen being killed and people accusing the fires as a diversion an hour later. No one claimed the fires or the murder. He needed them to accuse one another, so whenever he was close enough to a tent filled with wildlings, he would speak as though he heard a rumor that one tribe was discontented with Torrhen's rule. All his words are baseless, but the fires caused chaos, and chaos meant it was time for reaction; reaction meant no one was sound enough to make reactive thought. Aemon would hate himself for the rest of his days for saying this, but Little Fingure was right; chaos was a ladder.

Amidst the chaos, Aemon and Ghost moved with purpose, strategically igniting more fires to fuel the turmoil among the wildlings. The night had transformed into a cacophony of accusations, clashes, and chaos as different tribes pointed fingers at one another for Torrhen's demise.

As the fires grew in number and intensity, so did the conflicts within the wildling encampment. Aemon heard the rising tension in the accusations, with tribes turning on each other, each vying for control in the power vacuum left by Torrhen's death.

It was an hour later that he heard different tribes of wildlings being accused, the fires raging and people still burning from the flames made it understandable that no one was thinking clearly when their families were being burnt alive by flames and not by Balerion. He heard screams of one tribe trying to take the power Torrhen left behind while others accused them of killing Torrhen to take power. The Hornfoot screamed that it was Thenn that killed Torrhen. The Thenns called it lies and accused Hornfoots of doing the same act but blaming the Thenns. The heads of the clans began arguing with one another, and it did not take long to get the Hornfoot in question to grab a large club and bash the Thenn in the head so hard that brain and blood coated the floor. The Thenns been fighting the Hornfoots in retaliation. And it was not long after that eight entire clans began fighting, and soon more joined in, and soon more after. Half the entire camp was fighting.

The first skirmishes had erupted, individuals from various tribes engaging in brutal combat. The sound of bronze clashing against bronze and the anguished cries of the wounded filled the air. Aemon moved through the shadows, Ghost by his side, feeling the vibrations of the unfolding chaos beneath his feet.

People screamed in panic, confusion, and anger, and it wasn't long before the skirmishes escalated into full-scale battles. Aemon asked Ghost to guide him to strategic locations where they could set more fires to stoke the flames of discord. With each new blaze, the tension among the wildlings grew, pushing the camp further into madness. Half the camp was fighting itself, a quarter of the camp was on fire as the fires converted together to make one large wildfire, and the quarter of wildlings that weren't injured were trying to put out the flames.

As Aemon witnessed the encampment descend into turmoil, he couldn't help but feel a heavy weight on his shoulders. The consequences of his actions were rippling through the camp, sowing discord and violence. Yet, with the impending threat beyond the Wall, Aemon steeled himself, convinced that the chaos he was orchestrating was a necessary evil to prepare the North for the greater dangers that lay ahead.

The first rays of daylight broke over the frozen landscape, revealing the aftermath of the night's chaos. Half of the wildling encampment lay in ruins, consumed by fires that continued to smolder. Aemon and Ghost, positioned at the edge of the camp, surveyed the devastation they had orchestrated. The plan had worked, and the wildlings were weakened and divided.

As the first light of dawn illuminated the scene, the silence was shattered by the resounding roar of Balerion the Black Dread. Aemon knew the dragon was announcing its presence, a signal that the wildlings could not ignore. The war horns of the wildlings echoed through the air, a response to the impending threat.

Aemon turned to face the south, where the Wall stood tall and imposing. The pounding of hooves reverberated through the icy ground, and Aemon knew that the North had arrived. The cavalry, accompanied by the banners of various Northern Houses, charged down from the Wall in a formidable display of strength.

The ground quivered beneath the collective force of thousands of horses, armored men, and the Night's Watch. Aemon could hear the war cries, the shouting of orders, and the thunderous gallop of the Northern forces rushing forward. The North had answered the call, arriving at dawn to confront the wildling threat.

The clash of two forces on the frozen expanse beyond the Wall was imminent. Aemon watched the approaching wave of northern warriors, their armor glinting in the morning light, their banners fluttering defiantly. The stage was set for a decisive confrontation that would determine the fate of the North and its ability to stand against the looming threat beyond the Wall. But Aemon had done his work; the wildlings were too weak due to killing half of their numbers, from the fires, and from having no rest while the Northern men and the Night's Watch were rested and ready. This would be no battle but a slaughter.

Amidst the chaos of the battlefield, Aemon and Ghost moved seamlessly through the ranks of Northern forces, joining the fight against the now-desperate wildling horde. Aemon had received a black cloak from a Night's Watchman, a gesture that would help distinguish him from the foes they were facing.

The Northmen, divided into three forces, strategically closed in on the weakened wildlings, effectively surrounding them. Aemon observed the coordinated attack from the east and west, realizing that the wildlings had no chance against the organized might of the Northern forces. The clash was not a battle; it was a ruthless slaughter.

Aemon, riding Ghost, charged into the fray, their movements synchronized in a dance of death. The white dire wolf fiercely guarded Aemon, intercepting any wildling who dared to approach the young Targaryen. Ghost's teeth and claws became a whirlwind of deadly precision, leaving injured or slain wildlings in their wake.

Aemon, wielding a stolen wildling sword, moved with agility and purpose, delivering precise strikes to any wildling who dared to challenge him. Ghost, relying on his powerful jaws and claws, would incapacitate adversaries, allowing Aemon to finish them off. The duo became a formidable force, seamlessly complementing each other's strengths.

In the midst of the chaos, a Night's Watchman recognized Aemon and handed him a black cloak. The gesture not only offered Aemon some protection but also signaled to his allies that he fought on their side. Aemon and Ghost continued to press forward, their movements fluid and efficient.

As the battle raged on, Aemon and Ghost fought side by side, an unstoppable force within the Northern ranks. The wildlings, overwhelmed and outnumbered, found themselves caught in a relentless onslaught that left them with little hope of survival.

In the heart of the chaotic battlefield, Aemon and Ghost moved in perfect harmony, weaving through the skirmish with a deadly dance. Aemon's movements were fluid, his stolen wildling sword cutting through the air with precision as he engaged his foes. Each slash was calculated, aiming for vital spots to dispatch his enemies swiftly.

As Aemon faced a charging wildling, he sidestepped a swinging club and swiftly countered with a low slash to the legs, disabling his opponent. Before the fallen wildling could react, Aemon's sword pierced through the exposed neck, ending the threat with a decisive strike.

Meanwhile, Ghost moved like a ghost on the battlefield, white fur blending seamlessly with the snow-covered ground. The dire wolf's agility and sheer power were a sight to behold. In one swift motion, Ghost lunged at a trio of wildlings, jaws snapping shut on one's throat while simultaneously using his claws to disembowel the others.

Aemon found himself surrounded, the wildlings closing in. Just as a spear was thrust towards him, Ghost materialized from the chaos, intercepting the weapon with his massive jaws. The dire wolf shook his head; the wildling's futile attempts to retrieve the weapon met with futility.

In turn, Aemon fought with relentless determination. His blade danced through the air, parrying attacks and dealing deadly blows. Aemon dodged a swing, countered with a quick slash across the chest, and then drove the blade into the heart of his adversary.

Ghost, sensing Aemon's imminent danger, leaped into action. The dire wolf tore through the fray, ripping into the throats of multiple wildlings in a gruesome display of power. Blood sprayed across the snow-covered ground as Ghost's jaws clamped down with bone-crushing force.

As the battle continued, Aemon and Ghost's deadly partnership unfolded. Aemon's swordplay was a whirlwind of calculated strikes and dodges, while Ghost's primal savagery left a trail of maimed and lifeless foes. Together, they were an unstoppable force on the battlefield, the dance of death choreographed with grim efficiency.

Amidst the chaotic battlefield, Ghost continued to exhibit his incredible prowess, moving with lethal precision as he tore through groups of wildlings. His powerful jaws snapped shut, ripping limbs from bodies, and his claws slashed through the air, leaving a trail of carnage in his wake.

As Aemon faced a particularly burly wildling, a massive brute armed with a crude axe, he found himself at a disadvantage. The wildling swung the axe overhead with brutal force, aiming to crush Aemon beneath its weight. Just as the weapon descended, Ghost lunged forward, intercepting the attack with his jaws clamped around the axe's haft. The dire wolf's sheer strength was evident as he wrestled the weapon away from the wildling, leaving him defenseless.

Aemon seized the opportunity, thrusting his stolen sword into the exposed side of the disarmed wildling. The man fell to the ground, his roars silenced by Ghost's brutal efficiency. Aemon glanced up at the dire wolf with a mixture of gratitude and awe, the bond between them evident in their seamless collaboration on the battlefield.

In another encounter, Aemon found himself surrounded by a trio of wildlings, each wielding makeshift weapons. Ghost, recognizing the imminent danger, leaped into action. With swift movements, he circled Aemon, creating a barrier between the child and his attackers. Ghost's feral appearance warned the wildlings, but not once did he make a sound as only the blood from his maw and the red in his eyes showed anyone that he was more than just the white that matched the snow as he lunged at the closest one, tearing through flesh with razor-sharp teeth.

Seizing the opening, Aemon lunged forward with his sword, dispatching one of the wildlings with a well-placed thrust. Ghost continued his assault, incapacitating the second assailant by ripping into his legs with powerful bites. The third wildling, desperate and disoriented, faced a determined Aemon, who swiftly delivered a fatal strike.

Throughout the battlefield, the terrifying combination of Aemon and Ghost struck fear into the hearts of the wildlings. Ghost's savagery complemented Aemon's calculated strikes, creating a dance of death that left no room for mercy. As the battle raged on, the bond between the young Targaryen and his direwolf proved to be an unstoppable force, turning the tide in favor of the North.

Amidst the aftermath of the battle, the Northmen celebrated their hard-fought victory. Aemon, seated beside Ghost, observed the revelry with a mix of exhaustion and relief. The dire wolf stood guard, his keen eyes scanning the surroundings, a silent protector by Aemon's side.

The cheers of the victorious Northmen echoed through the air as they gathered the surrendered wildlings. Men, women, and children were taken into custody, their weapons confiscated as the Northmen ensured they posed no further threat. Aemon, still wearing the black cloak gifted to him, watched the proceedings with a solemn gaze.

Ghost, his white fur stained with the blood of their enemies, sat faithfully beside Aemon, a silent guardian who had been instrumental in turning the tide of the battle. Aemon reached out to pat Ghost's head, a wordless acknowledgment of the dire wolf's unwavering loyalty and the crucial role he played in the victory.

As the Northmen began securing the surrendered wildlings, Aemon stood up, still clutching the sword he had used in the heat of battle. He surveyed the field, taking in the sight of fallen foes and allies alike. The air was thick with the scent of blood and burning remnants of the wildling camp.

Lord Rickon Stark, having witnessed the success of Aemon's plan and the subsequent battle, approached his grandson with a stern yet proud expression. "You did well, Aemon. The North owes you a debt," he declared, a hint of admiration in his voice.

Lord Rickon Stark dismounted from his horse, his eyes filled with a mix of concern and pride as he inspected Aemon's wounds. Benjen Stark, the seasoned Lord Commander, joined them, listening intently to Aemon's account of the night's events.

"Aemon, you look like sh*t," he said, glancing over the wounds on Aemon's shoulder. Benjen, his father, joined them, concern etched on his weathered face.

Benjen spoke first, "You did well, Aemon. Your plan worked better than any of us could have hoped."

Aemon nodded, still gripping the sword he had used in the battle. "The King Beyond the Wall is dead, killed him halfway through the night. The wildlings tore each other apart through the night as the fires converged, and the small portion of wildlings that tried to fight the flames were too few to do anything major. It was chaos out there."

Rickon, a seasoned leader of the North, assessed the situation. "And you went back amidst that chaos? Your wounds, I heard my men say not a blade touched you; how did you get injured."

Aemon met Rickon's gaze, determination in his eyes. "I needed to get into the camp. If I came from the Wall, it would be suspicious. An injured soldier returning from the battlefield, less suspicious. I had to make it look real. So I made it real."

Benjen chuckled, a rare expression on his face. "Smart lad. You've got the makings of a true Stark."

Rickon's stern demeanor softened, and he clapped Aemon on the shoulder. "Proud of you, Aemon. But the next time I see you cutting yourself, I will beat you bloody myself."

"The end result is the same, I suppose," Aemon chuckled. Rickon purposefully tightened the grip he had on Aemon enough to squeeze the life out of Aemon before. Aemon returned the gesture, feeling the weight of his family's pride. "I won't let you down, Grandfather."

Aemon ordered the men to take Aemon back to the Wall; soon after, Aemon had had a long night, and the boy needed sleep. Aemon tried to protest, but Rickon told Aemon he had done enough; they would speak after Aemon had rested.

Chapter 16: A Father's Rage

Summary:

Daemon Targaryen storms the Red Keep after learning of his son's disappearance.

Notes:

Please note that this portion before Daemon, who is the main perceptive of this chapter, was done last minute because a reader asked for me to write this scene specifically. This was not planned at all; it was a last-minute decision made two hours before the upload in question. I know it does not seem likely because of how it came out, but once I started, I loved the idea so much I may have gone overboard.

Chapter Text

King's Landing 102 AC

Two months ago...

The night hung heavy over King's Landing, cloaked in shadows that whispered of secrets and concealed treachery. The air was thick with anticipation, and the silence of the city streets seemed to dance with unseen menace. Under the cover of darkness, the Hill of Rhaenys stood as a brooding sentinel, its contours outlined by the silvery glow of a waxing moon.

Then, with a roar that echoed through the ancient stones of the Red Keep, the very earth beneath the Hill convulsed in a violent upheaval. A colossal explosion of dirt and rubble erupted from the bowels of the Hill, rending the quiet night asunder. A shockwave of force shattered the stillness, sending tremors coursing through the heart of the city.

The people of King's Landing were jolted from their slumber, their dreams shattered like glass. The explosion was a discordant symphony that shattered the peace, awakening the entire city in a frenzy of confusion. Panic spread like wildfire through the narrow streets as the very ground beneath their feet quivered and groaned.

In the alleys and market squares, in the chambers of the Red Keep and the humble abodes of Flea Bottom, the denizens of King's Landing stumbled out into the moonlit night. Their eyes were wide with terror, and their voices rose in a cacophony of fear and disbelief. Nobody knew what had transpired beneath the Hill of Rhaenys, and whispers of disaster permeated the air.

The once-steadfast walls of the city shook, and the ancient stones groaned as if the very foundations of King's Landing were rebelling against the weight of history. A pervasive sense of foreboding hung over the city like a shroud, and the night seemed to have taken on a malevolent life of its own.

As the chaos unfurled, the chaos deepened. The city guards rushed through the streets, their armor clanging like an ominous herald of impending doom. The septons, their prayers muffled by the uproar, sought solace in the gods, beseeching them for mercy. The smallfolk, desperate and bewildered, ran through the streets, their faces a tableau of fear and desperation.

In the midst of this pandemonium, the Hill of Rhaenys stood, its secrets now laid bare. The dark smoke billowed from the fractured earth, casting a sinister pallor over the once-proud edifices of King's Landing. The unknown had erupted from the very roots of the city, and its impact was felt not only in the trembling ground but in the hearts of those who called the capital home.

The explosive force, unleashed from the very heart of the Hill of Rhaenys, sent shockwaves rippling through the ancient city of King's Landing. As the ground convulsed beneath the weight of unseen chaos, the bowels of the hill disgorged a monstrous plume of dust and rubble. A colossal eruption that seemed to defy the very laws of nature. A herald of dark death and black dread.

Debris and rocks, jagged and unforgiving, soared through the air with the ferocity of vengeful spirits. The night sky, once serene and moonlit, was now obliterated by a shroud of darkness as the vast cloud of dust ascended like a phantom, blotting out the celestial canvas. The moon's silvery glow, once a beacon of calm, succumbed to the brooding shadow cast upon the city.

The cacophony of destruction was accompanied by the relentless hail of debris, crashing through the structures that stood in the way of this elemental fury. Houses crumbled like fragile sandcastles, their once-stalwart walls reduced to splinters. Buildings that had weathered many storms were now being torn asunder as if the very soul of King's Landing was being laid bare.

The airborne onslaught descended upon the city like a relentless storm, shattering windows, splintering wood, and raining chaos upon the unsuspecting inhabitants. The wails of the wind carried the sharp, stinging bite of dirt as the dust enveloped every nook and cranny, coating the city in a blanket of murky brown fog.

Amidst the calamity, the terrified screams of the people rose like a symphony of despair. A chorus of panic echoed through the narrow streets and bustling market squares, a visceral response to the unbridled wrath that had been unleashed upon them. The air was thick with fear, and the very essence of King's Landing trembled in the face of an unknown force that had erupted from the bowels of the earth.

As the dust settled upon the city, it transformed the once vibrant streets into a desolate wasteland. The familiar landmarks were obscured, and the chaos had left an indelible mark on the landscape. The city now stood not as a symbol of grandeur but as a testament to the capricious nature of fate.

Through the brown, dusty fog that lingered in the air, the people of King's Landing ran blindly, their faces contorted in terror. Each step taken was a desperate attempt to escape the unseen menace that had descended upon them. The city's collective scream reverberated through the stone walls, a haunting lamentation for the sudden and violent upheaval that had shattered the tranquility of the night. In the wake of the explosion, King's Landing had become a realm of chaos, and the people within it were left to grapple with the aftermath of an earthquake that had not only shaken the very foundations of the city but also shattered the illusions of safety and security that once held them captive.

And so, beneath the ominous moon, the city of King's Landing became a maelstrom of confusion and terror as the people grappled with the enigma that had erupted from the Hill of Rhaenys, shattering the semblance of normalcy that the night had once held

The panicked populace, driven by sheer terror, fled in disarray, their faces etched with the lines of fear. The once-cobbled pathways were now a chaotic river of humanity, desperately seeking refuge from the unseen menace that had shattered the serenity of the night.

Women, clutching the hems of their disheveled gowns, raced through the alleys with wide-eyed terror. The flickering lantern light cast stark shadows on their faces, revealing the panic etched across their features. Mothers, normally pillars of strength, now shielded their children with trembling arms, the instinct to protect overpowering any semblance of composure.

Children, wide-eyed and bewildered, stumbled alongside their frantic parents, their innocent faces contorted with fear. Tiny hands clung desperately to their mothers' skirts, seeking solace in the warmth of familial embrace. The world they once knew as stable and secure had crumbled, leaving them in a terrifying limbo of uncertainty.

In the midst of the stampede, a group of young girls, their laughter extinguished by the tumultuous events, clung to each other as they navigated the tumultuous streets. Their eyes darted wildly, scanning the chaos for a semblance of safety that remained elusive. Hair tousled and clothes smeared with dust, they moved with a sense of urgency that belied their tender age.

Amidst the clamor, an elderly woman, her stooped frame a testament to a lifetime of resilience, hobbled along with a determined yet faltering gait. Her weathered hands clutched a tattered shawl, her eyes reflecting the horror of a city in upheaval. The world she had known had been shaken to its core, and the weight of her years offered no immunity to the terror that enveloped King's Landing.

The cries of infants pierced the air, carried by the wind like a haunting melody of distress. Mothers cradled their babies, shielding them from the debris and chaos that rained down upon the city. The piercing wails of the youngest denizens of King's Landing merged with the collective screams, creating a dissonant symphony that underscored the magnitude of the catastrophe.

As the tumultuous echoes of the earth-shattering explosion subsided, a new and monstrous resonance filled the air, drowning out the terrified screams of the city's inhabitants. It was a roar unlike anything ever conceived in the annals of history – a primeval bellow that transcended the realms of mortal comprehension.

The people of King's Landing, still reeling from the seismic upheaval, clutched their ears in anguish as the colossal roar reverberated through the city. It was a sound so profound that it seemed to emanate from the very depths of the underworld, a resonant force capable of shaking the foundations of both stone and soul.

The deafening roar eclipsed even the mightiest thunderstorms, its ferocity reaching into the heavens and causing the very clouds to tremble. It was as if the gods themselves recoiled at the sheer power and malevolence that had been unleashed upon the world. The streets, once filled with the clamor of panicked footsteps and anguished cries, fell into an eerie silence as the people, overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the sound, covered their ears in a futile attempt to shield themselves from the auditory onslaught.

The heavens themselves seemed to weep as the roar echoed through the night, a guttural symphony of terror and impending doom. The very air quivered with the palpable weight of fear, and the hearts of the people of King's Landing beat in unison, each pulsation a testament to the collective dread that hung thick in the atmosphere.

Then, from the midst of the chaotic haze emerged a sight that further plunged the city into a state of stupefied awe. The Dragon Pit, a once-hallowed structure, now revealed its true nature as the source of the cataclysmic eruption. From its depths arose the colossal form of Balerion the Black Dread – a legendary dragon of unprecedented size and malevolence.

Balerion's scales, obsidian-black and gleaming in the fractured moonlight, seemed to devour the very essence of the night. The dragon's eyes burned with an infernal intensity, their gaze penetrating the very souls of those who dared to behold this ancient terror. With wings outstretched, the creature dwarfed the entirety of the castles that had once stood as symbols of power and dominion.

Balerion the Black Dread, an embodiment of ancient terror, unfolded his colossal wings and ascended into the night sky. The legends had vastly underestimated the sheer enormity of the beast, for as it soared overhead, its vast silhouette eclipsed both the moon and stars. The very heavens bowed to the dark majesty of the dragon, and the city of King's Landing was plunged into an abyss of obsidian shadow.

The dragon's scales absorbed the feeble light that struggled to pierce through the overcast sky, rendering its body an abyssal void that devoured all illumination. It was as though the celestial bodies themselves recoiled in deference to the colossal creature that now dominated the night.

The dragon's flight was a ponderous spectacle, an unfolding epic that stretched the limits of mortal perception. It took an entire minute for Balerion's immense form to traverse the span of the city, during which time the heavens were veiled in darkness. The moon and stars, celestial witnesses to the primordial might that soared above, were obscured by the sheer magnitude of the dragon's wingspan.

For that fleeting moment, the city of King's Landing existed in a realm untouched by light. The people below, their eyes cast upward in a mixture of awe and dread, could only bear witness to the stygian void that replaced the familiar canopy of stars and moonlight. The dragon's passage left an indelible mark on the night, a cosmic disruption that altered the very fabric of reality.

As Balerion roared once more, the sound reverberated through the obsidian expanse he had created, a haunting symphony that resonated with the primal fear etched upon the faces of the people below. And then, with an unhurried purpose, the colossal dragon turned north, its departure marked by the gradual return of celestial radiance.

With the departure of Balerion, the dragon whose existence seemed to defy the very laws of nature, the veil of darkness lifted from King's Landing. Light returned as if reluctant to breach the sanctity of the dragon's presence. The stars blinked into view, and the moon cast its silvery glow upon the city once more.

As the skies cleared, the resumption of sound was heralded by the terrified screams of the people below. Panic swept through the streets with renewed vigor as the inhabitants of King's Landing, shaken by the revelation of a living legend, scattered in disarray once more. The dragon's departure marked the end of a harrowing chapter, leaving in its wake a city haunted by the echoes of a night touched by the colossal shadow of Balerion the Black Dread. The dragon that showed the realms of man the definition of Fire and Blood.

Red Keep 102 AC

Two months later.... Today.....

Daemon Targaryen

Daemon Targaryen, astride his fearsome dragon Caraxes, descended upon King's Landing like a vengeful storm. His armor, adorned with the black and red of House Targaryen, gleamed in the sunlight as his crimson cape billowed behind him. Once full of regal composure, his eyes now burned with a furious fire. So angry was he that he barely noticed the city in reconstruction near the Dragon Pit.

The guards foolish enough to approach him, not allowing him to continue forward as he landed in the Dragon Pit, were met with a savage onslaught. Daemon's sword, the Valyrian steel blade known as Dark Sister, danced through the air with lethal grace. Helmets became weapons turned against their wearers, the clang of steel against steel mingling with the agonized cries of the guards. Blood spattered across the ancient stones of the Dragon Pit, a visceral testament to Daemon's wrath.

"I will know where my son is!" Daemon's voice thundered through the pit, echoing off the walls. His eyes glowed with a draconic intensity as he surveyed the chaos he had wrought.

Daemon knew far before entering the Red Keep that the news of Daemon's arrival would spread like wildfire within the Red Keep. Servants whispered of the furious dragon rider in the Dragon Pit, and the fear of his impending wrath reached even the highest chambers. Daemon wondered if Viserys stood frozen for a moment upon hearing the news after losing Daemon's only son!

Undeterred by the chaos he left in his wake, Daemon mounted Caraxes again and took to the skies. The red dragon's wings beat against the air, propelling them toward the Red Keep. Daemon's thoughts were a tempest of anger and worry as he envisioned confronting Viserys, demanding answers about his missing son.

The Red Keep loomed ahead, its towers casting long shadows across the city. Daemon landed with a resounding thud in the courtyard, drawing the attention of those brave or foolish enough to witness the spectacle.

With Dark Sister still in hand, Daemon stormed into the Red Keep, the dragon bone pommel gleaming ominously. The halls echoed with his heavy footsteps as he sought the whereabouts of his brother. No door, no guard, would stand in his way.

Daemon Targaryen, clad in the black and red of House Targaryen, confronted Ser Harrold Westerling and the King's guards at the entrance of the Red Keep. His eyes, ablaze with a mixture of fury and concern, locked onto Ser Harrold as he demanded answers about the whereabouts of his son.

"Step aside, Westerling, or feel the bite of Dark Sister!" Daemon's voice, a tempest of anger, echoed through the courtyard. Caraxes, perched behind him, bellowed in unison, its crimson scales reflecting the fiery mood of its rider.

Ser Harrold stood his ground, resolute in his duty to protect the royal family. "I am here to ensure the King's and the realm's safety. Even you, Prince Daemon, cannot be allowed to threaten the peace within these walls."

Daemon's hand tightened around Dark Sister's hilt, and his face contorted with rage. "Peace? My son is missing, and I've been kept in the dark like a beggar in the street for over two moons!"

Ser Harrold, maintaining a calm demeanor, raised his hand in a gesture of diplomacy. "Lower your sword, Prince Daemon. I understand your concerns. If you seek answers, I can lead you inside to speak with the King. But violence is not the path to resolution."

Daemon glared at Ser Harrold, grappling with his seething anger. Caraxes, sensing its rider's fury, shifted restlessly, its wings unfolding and then folding back against its massive frame.

"If I lower my sword, it's not peace I'll find, but lies and deceit!" Daemon spat the words out, the air crackling with tension.

Ser Harrold, his voice firm, spoke again. "I swear to you, Prince Daemon, you will be given an audience with the King. But only if you lower your sword. We must resolve this matter with reason, not bloodshed."

Daemon hesitated, his gaze flickering between Ser Harrold and the entrance to the Red Keep. The choice before him weighed heavily on his shoulders, torn between the desire for answers and the searing anger that threatened to consume him.

He did not have his son for most of the boy's life. He was deprived of his last piece of Lyanna; the promise he swore to his late wife on her death bed was to protect their boy, and here he was, deprived of answers about where his son was and what had happened. He asked his brother to protect his son, his brother, the only man he cared for and loved, he trusted him with the only treasure he cared for, and Viserys f*cked it up.

Amidst the tension in the courtyard, Viserys appeared, his presence greeted by an uneasy silence. Daemon's eyes, still ablaze with fury, locked onto his brother. Viserys approached cautiously, a hint of trepidation in his gaze as he greeted his brother.

"Daemon," Viserys began, "we need to talk. Calmly."

But Daemon was beyond reason. "Where is my son, Viserys? What have you done with Aemon?" His voice echoed through the courtyard, a roar that demanded answers.

Viserys attempted to calm the situation, urging Daemon to lower his sword for a civil conversation. The momentary truce shattered when, without warning, Daemon dropped Dark Sister to the ground and delivered a thunderous punch to Viserys's face. The force of the blow was enough to break Viserys's nose, sending him sprawling to the ground.

Daemon, fueled by rage, was poised to unleash further violence upon his brother, mirroring the brutality inflicted on the guards. However, a sudden realization halted him in his tracks. His eyes, filled with hatred, shifted from the dazed Viserys to the onlookers—Rhaenyra and Aemma—momentarily, he saw Aemon and Lyanna in their gaze. He failed Lyanna and Aemon, but once he died, he would not have Lyanna curse him for failing Rhaenyra as well.

Cursing under his breath, Daemon retrieved Viserys, lifted him from the ground, and locked eyes with him. Accusations flowed from Daemon's lips, condemning Viserys for the loss of Aemon. Viserys, weighed down by guilt, acknowledged the truth.

"I trusted you with my only son," Daemon seethed, his voice dripping with betrayal. "I trusted you to fulfill your vow to care for him when I couldn't."

Viserys, his expression reflecting the burden of his failure, agreed solemnly. "I know, Daemon. I failed you."

"I trusted you with Aemon. Not our father. Not our grandfather. You promised me you would look after him. You said you would take care of him like your son! And where is he now, Viserys?"

"I don't know, Daemon. I'm sorry. Please understand. I am sorry. I failed you and Aemon. I'm sorry," Viserys replied. Viserys looked down in guilt as tears threatened to spill over.

Daemon didn't need apologies. He needed answers. Apologizing would do nothing. His son would still be lost. His son would still be gone. He could not blame Viserys; this was his son. He failed to be with his son. Damn, his father and grandfather for taking him away from Aemon and then losing him! Damn all of them to the lowest hells.

Torn between the desire for vengeance and the remnants of familial love, Daemon spoke with venom. "I should kill you right now, Viserys. You deserve it."

Viserys, eyes filled with regret, accepted the judgment. "I do."

Daemon, relenting for a moment, uttered a harsh truth. "If you were anyone other than my brother, you would be dead already." The air hung heavy with unresolved tensions as the brothers confronted the bitter reality of their shattered trust.

The courtyard held its breath as Daemon, his fury momentarily abated, bent to retrieve Dark Sister. Daemon's hand tightened around Dark Sister, every eye in the courtyard tracking his movements. The air was thick with anticipation, but with deliberate intent, Daemon sheathed his sword instead of unleashing his fury once more. The tension remained a palpable force hanging over the scene.

"Take me to see the king," Daemon ordered, addressing the guards and Ser Harrold Westerling. The tension lingered, palpable in the air, as the guards escorted Daemon toward the heart of the Red Keep. Viserys offered to lead the way to the throne room where the King held court, a proposition met with a reluctant nod from Daemon.

As they walked together, Daemon couldn't resist a barbed comment. "Your nose is still crooked," he observed, noting the aftermath of his earlier punch. Before Viserys could react, Daemon took matters into his own hands. With swift and deliberate movements, he reset Viserys's nose. The sudden pain elicited a grunt from Viserys.

As they moved, the silence was broken by Viserys, who grimaced at the pain. "Why did fixing the nose hurt more than breaking it?" he muttered through gritted teeth.

Without a hint of sympathy, Daemon retorted, "You deserved it."

"I still have the right to complain about the pain, though," Viserys argued. Daemon looked at his brother. The threat in the glare was evident to the pair. "I know you could, so again, I'm surprised you didn't beat me further in the courtyard."

Daemon said nothing for some time before replying. "Rhaenyra was watching. The girl does not need to see her father being nearly killed by her uncle."

Viserys nodded, "Thank you."

" I didn't do it for you. But, when I finally meet those c*nts we call gods, I rather meet them without kin slaying being on the list of my many sins."

"Fair enough," Viserys returned.

The tension between the Targaryen brothers hung thick as they made their way through the Red Keep. Viserys, nursing his mended nose, cast furtive glances at Daemon, uncertain of what awaited him in the throne room.

Daemon's demeanor remained stoic, the whirlwind of emotions within him concealed beneath a façade of calm. As Viserys continued to rub the injured nose. "You're lucky I'm not making it worse," he muttered, referencing the swift correction of Viserys' broken nose.

Daemon's demand echoed through the halls as they traversed the passages of the Red Keep. "Tell me everything," he ordered Viserys, a dangerous intensity in his gaze. Viserys took a deep breath, ready to recount the events that led to Aemon's disappearance.

"Aemon was frustrated with the pace of our response to the wildling threat," Viserys began, recounting the tale. "He took matters into his own hands, sneaking into the Dragon Pit. And there," Viserys paused for emphasis, "he claimed a dragon."

Daemon's eyes widened in shock, anger, and pride. Furious and determined, his son had managed to secure a dragon for himself. The specific dragon in question intrigued Daemon. "Which one?" he inquired, his voice betraying a hint of satisfaction.

Viserys met his brother's gaze, "Balerion the Black Dread. "

A smirk danced across Daemon's face, a mixture of triumph and acknowledgment. "Lyanna's blood runs true. Only the Black Dread is worthy of Lyanna's son! Ha!" he muttered, his words a whispered homage to his departed love. "My son rides the f*cking Dread!" Daemon then began laughing in earnest. Daemon then considered what Viserys said about Aemon being angry at the Crown's lack of action for the North and the Wildling Invasion. Aloud, he declared, "That means Aemon is in the North. I'm going to get him my-f*cking-self!" Daemon was about to turn around and leave, but Viserys stopped him.

Viserys interjected, highlighting the enormity of the task. "But which part of the North, Daemon? It's vast, as large as all the other kingdoms and Dorne combined."

Daemon contemplated the challenge. "Why not send dragons after him?" he questioned.

Viserys explained the limitations. "Jaehaerys is too old, Rhaenyra and our aunts too young. And as for me," Viserys paused, his tone bitter, "I'm not allowed to leave. King's Landing needs a dragon rider for protection."

The atmosphere in the throne room was thick with tension as Daemon Targaryen, flanked by Viserys, entered the grand chamber. All eyes shifted towards them, and the courtiers, nobles, and lords spoke in hushed tones. Whispers of the missing heir and the impending confrontation with the King filled the air.

Daemon's gaze, full of fury and determination, fixated on King Jaehaerys, who sat on the Iron Throne. The frailty of the old King did little to quench Daemon's seething anger, but the acknowledgment of his lineage stayed his hand. He restrained himself from acting out against the aged monarch.

As Daemon prepared to address the court, a thunderous roar echoed through the walls of the Red Keep, reverberating like a storm in the silent throne room. The sound was so immense that the entire castle seemed to shake with its resonance. The audience, caught off guard, fell into a sudden silence, their collective concern palpable.

Before Daemon could voice his concerns, a guard rushed into the throne room, sweat streaming down his face. King Jaehaerys, leaning forward, demanded information. The guard, gasping for breath, relayed the news.

"Balerion the Black Dread has landed outside the Dragon Pit," the guard announced. "Several figures have dismounted him, and carriages have been dispatched. They'll be brought to the Red Keep within the hour."

King Jaehaerys, though weakened, retained his command. "Have the riders brought to the throne room within half that time," he ordered, the urgency evident in his voice.

The tension in the throne room only escalated as the news of Balerion's return and the mysterious riders spread among the courtiers. Still seething with anger and worry for his son, Daemon awaited the imminent arrival of those who descended from the mighty dragon. The throne room, once a venue for political intrigue, now brimmed with anticipation and unease.

Standing in the grand throne room of the Red Keep, Daemon Targaryen felt a torrent of emotions coursing through him. The news of Balerion's return with a rider, his son Aemon, had caught him off guard. The mixture of relief and impatience churned within him, compelling him to immediately rush to the Dragon Pit. But Daemon, well-versed in courtly etiquette, forced himself to remain composed, at least on the surface.

As he surveyed the throne room, his eyes flitted across the familiar faces and political figures. Aemma, his sister-in-law, entered the room with Rhaenyra, and they positioned themselves near Viserys. The young princesses, his aunts Viserra, Aerea, Rhaella, Daenerys, Saera, and Maegella, stood closer to the Iron Throne. Daemon did not speak to his aunts; he had barely even interacted with them. He was only given a few days every few months with his son, and when Viserys did not drag him into the small council rooms, he would ensure his time was with his solemn son, how the boy was more northern and stoic in character than his mother was beyond him.

Daemon observed the court, sensing that the news of Balerion and Aemon's return had spread faster than wildfire through the Red Keep and not just the throne room, considering the knowing glances exchanged by those gathered. Daemon would celebrate that Aemon had Balerion, but right now was not the time. But Balerion was a boon for Aemon and Daemon. Balerion had a long and important reputation as the conqueror's dragon, and any person who rode him gained the history of the dragon with it, the weight, and the responsibility. Aemon was to be the Prince of Summerhall, and with the first Prince of Summerhall being Daemon, who rode Caraxes, and the second being Aemon, who rode Balerion, would already show the importance of the possession. Then, for Daemon to be the Prince of Dragonstone once Viserys rose to the throne, Daemon's heir, being the rider of Balerion, would strengthen Daemon's own claim. No one would anger the rider of the same dragon that made the Seven Kingdoms. Daemon smiled.

His son had picked the best mount possible to strengthen both their claims and to enhance the position of the Prince of Summerhall, and if done correctly, a branch house, Aemon's second son, if need be, will always be loyal to the Daemon and Aemon's line. Daemon loved his son all the more. The boy was truly a godsend. But he did not know how the court would take the news or the already established knowledge that the youngest male of House Targaryen was both the youngest dragon rider in their history and rode the most important dragon of their history.

Daemon looked around and noticed several River Lords, each looking at Daemon with contempt. They had hated Daemon since he had taken Lyanna as his wife. They claimed Daemon had stolen her from House Tully as if Lyanna Stark could ever be stolen. The She-wolf would gut any man who tried to steal her and drag him by his innards to a cliff to promptly kick them off. No man in the Seven Kingdoms could tell Lyanna what to do, and thetroutswere unimportant, even if they had been managing their lands better over the last five years. Daemon assumed that if he had ever been caught in the Riverlands and did not have a dragon, the Tullys would try to kill him and cover the death up by claiming bandits had done the deed. That same hatred for both Lyanna and Daemon himself transferred to Aemon as if his son had done anything wrong. The River Lords were the only outside lords in attendance because he doubted anyone out of the Red Keep, and the North knew Aemon had disappeared or claimed Balerion, more than likely despised the fact Aemon now rode the most important dragon in their histories and were plotting ways to change this. Daemon did not care. A dragon does not care for the opinions of the sheep. And if thetroutstried anything to his son, he would show them fire and blood.

Daemon would make sure Aemon avoided the River Lords as long as he was here. No, better yet, maybe he would challenge a few in the training yards to remind them who he was and then allow Aemon to face their squires to put them in their place for future reference. Fighting alongside his son to gut a fewtroutssounded better than going to the Street of Silk.

As he looked around, past the River Lords, Daemon noticed some Vale Lords and noticed no friends there either, due to him forsaking his betrothal to the Bronze Bitch in favor of Lyanna. The news of Aemon having the Black Dread would not be taken well by them. However, due to their close ties to Aemma and Rhaenyra, he doubted they would be an issue since it was widely known that she helped raise Aemon and due to Rhaenyra and Aemon being publicly close to one another. He would not need to care about their dislike for Aemon once Aemon married Rhaenyra.

Amidst the courtiers, Daemon couldn't ignore the intense gaze of Lord Otto Hightower. The Lord's disdain was palpable, likely fueled by the turmoil surrounding Aemon's reappearance. Daemon would not doubt the man was happy that Aemon had initially disappeared. Daemon would also not doubt it was Lord Hightower who suggested that Daemon not be told his son had disappeared and probably prayed day and night for Aemon to be killed by wildlings to hurt both the North and Daemon himself. However, Daemon, ever the master of smugness, met Hightower's glare with a confident smile. The power dynamics in the court had shifted once again, and Daemon was keenly aware of the whispers and speculations that would undoubtedly follow.

A sudden hush fell over the courtiers as a squire hurriedly relayed information to the announcer. With a nod, the announcer signaled for the guards to open the doors, and anticipation rippled through the room.

However, instead of a human figure making an entrance, the colossal form of a dire wolf emerged. Towering as tall as a war horse, the creature moved with silent grace, its white fur resembling the pure snow that blanketed the North. The dire wolf's eyes gleamed a deep crimson, a stark contrast to its snowy coat. Despite its immense size, the creature made no sound as it advanced, each step calculated and silent.

Gasps echoed through the throne room, and panic erupted as some courtiers retreated in fear while others rushed back, creating chaos and screams. Standing among the onlookers, Daemon remained still, his interest piqued by the unexpected spectacle.

The dire wolf, majestic and imposing, continued its unhurried approach towards the Iron Throne. The Kingsguard near the throne readied their swords, preparing for a potential threat. The dire wolf, however, displayed no signs of aggression. It stood in the center of the throne room, a silent sentinel amidst the fear and disorder it had stirred, showing no emotion or inclination toward violence.

The dire wolf, standing proudly in the midst of the throne room, turned its gaze toward Daemon before focusing its attention on the King. The air was thick with anticipation as the announcer's voice echoed through the grand hall.

"Prince Aemon of House Targaryen, the White Wolf, Prince of the North, heir to Summerhall and Winterfell!" the announcer proclaimed, and the room was filled with a collective murmur of surprise and intrigue. The dire wolf's presence seemed to amplify the solemnity of the moment. Daemon looked at his son and noticed that he was wearing mostly black, which is not uncommon for Aemon, considering the last time he saw his boy. However,the child looked like a man of the Night's Watch more than a prince. Relief washed over Daemon as he saw his son alive and seemingly unharmed at first glance. Until he saw a scar over his son's left eye carrying downward. Daemon's gaze shifted between Aemon and the towering dire wolf, wondering at the bond between them.

He looked over every inch of his son at a distance. He wanted to rush his son and ensure the boy was found. He wanted to ground the boy to his bed chambers in Summerhall, not that it was finished yet, to keep an eye on him indefinitely. But he could not be angry at his son, never angry. He and Lyanna had done the same to be married, and it would seem the boy had more than just Lyanna's looks.

Daemon looked at the man near Aemon and knew his former father-by-law. They had crossed paths once, but the man was easily recognizable, especially since so few Northmen, especially Starks, ever came down from the North. "Lord Rickon of House Stark, Warden of the North, Lord of Winterfell, the Wild Wolf," the announcer proclaimed. Other Northern lords were named, but Daemon's heart raced with impatience to see his son. He would not look away from the group's two Stark-looking leaders.

It was then that Daemon registered the information of Aemon being heir to Winterfell. The crowd murmured and spoke in hushed whispers, at least those not terrified by the wolf. Daemon glanced at the Vale Lords and the River Lords as they spoke with glares in their eyes. They continued to leer at his son. He would cut out their eyes if they continued to do as such. He looked back to his son and supposed he should not be surprised, but he was pleasantly surprised; Lyanna was her father's only child, so it would make sense to make her only son the heir once she passed.

Aemon approached the dire wolf and began scratching behind its ears, a surreal sight given the size difference between the five-year-old boy and the majestic creature. The throne room, caught in a collective state of shock, remained silent as the unusual pair commanded attention. Daemon, overcome with emotion, barely heard the continued introductions of Northern lords.

Daemon's eyes honed in on the stitches that marred Aemon's young face, and a surge of rage boiled within him. Someone had harmed his son, and the primal instinct to protect flared in Daemon's chest. Etiquette and protocol were cast aside as Daemon, fueled by a father's wrath, stepped forward, his grip tightening around the hilt of his sword.

Viserys attempted to intervene, his concern for his brother's well-being evident, but Daemon pressed forward, his focus solely on reaching Aemon. The Northmen standing guard next to Aemon turned their attention to Daemon, prepared to defend the White Wolf if needed.

Sensing the tension, the massive dire wolf began to scrunch its nose aggressively, a silent threat emanating from the imposing creature. The air grew tense, but Aemon, with a raised hand. The dire wolf relaxed in that instant, and the Northmen ceased their defensive stance. Aemon's command resonated with authority, and it was enough to calm both men and beasts. With a silent understanding, the dire wolf returned to a state of tranquility.

A single word uttered from Aemon's lips. "Kepa."

Overcome with a whirlwind of emotions, Daemon embraced Aemon in a fierce hug. Words were unnecessary; the reunion spoke volumes, a father's love transcending any injury or hardship his son had endured. The dire wolf stood sentinel, a silent witness to the powerful bond between father and son, as the tumult of the throne room momentarily faded away.

Daemon's eyes narrowed with concern as he looked at the stitches on Aemon's face. An undertone of anger laced his voice as he asked, "What happened to your eye, Aemon?"

The young prince, wise beyond his years, responded cryptically, "Some victories are worth a price, Kepa."

Daemon growled in frustration, his protective instincts raging within him. "Who did this to you?" he demanded, the edge in his voice sharp and unforgiving.

Before Aemon could answer, King Jaehaerys interrupted, his voice carrying the weight of authority. "Welcome, Prince Aemon. And greetings to Lord Rickon and our Northern guests."

Lord Rickon lowered his head in respect, "You grace," was all he said. Daemon would have laughed at the lack of decorum but did not move his eyes from his son's scar.

Lord Otto Hightower looked to the northern delegation, and then his eyes narrowed on Aemon and his dire wolf. "It is customary to bow when greeting the king, Prince Aemon."

Daemon wished to slit the man's throat for calling on his son so openly. The man seemed to take pride in the fact that Daemon's only child was to be punished for his abandonment of the city. But when Daemon was going to protest, in the corner of vision he did not see his son but rather Lyanna herself. She smiled at him for a fleeting second and stopped Daemon as if waiting for Aemon to speak.

"Aye, that is true, my Lord Hand," Aemon admitted. "If it pleases you, perhaps you could climb down here and bow alongside us bow alongside us. The Hand of the King is, after all, a servant of the Crown just as we all."

Daemon smiled smugly and chuckled in his throat. His son actually made a joke. His solemn boy had grown a few claws since his time in the North. Something had happened there. Something had happened in the North that had changed his son, at least ever so slightly. Daemon looked up to the King and saw the man smile a bit; he approved of Aemon putting Lord Otto back in his place; the man was not a dragon, even if he was the second most powerful man in the kingdoms, and it was important for him to remember that it was the dragons who ruled.

Aemon couldn't resist the opportunity to acknowledge King Jaehaerys. Daemon noticed as the King tightened his grip on Blackfyre; Daemon looked at his grandfather fiercely. The last time Daemon had seen the King's eyes like that, he sentenced his father, Baelon, to whip Daemon on his back, which was red and raw. If Jaehaerys ordered Daemon to do the same, Jaehaerys would have grown foolish in his old age.

Aemon turned from Daemon. Daemon wished to take his son away from Jaehaerys. The King was a good, great king but a horrible father and grandfather. Daemon watched as Aemon took a deep breath before smiling, faintly, smugly as if mimicking Daemon himself. "You look like the Conqueror himself, Your Grace."

King Jaehaerys, however, remained unswayed by the flattery. He fixed his gaze on Aemon and sternly remarked, "Flattery will not get you out of the situation you find yourself in."

Daemon saw Aemon smirk ever slightly as if he was going to make a jest, a whisper over his face, an image so soft he barely noticed it, but the mischievous smirk was so much like Lyanna. So faint was the smirk compared to the wide smile of Lyanna, but the devilish smug smile was Lyanna's, and there would be no doubt of it in Daemon's eyes. Confused, Aemon questioned, "What situation? I wish to return and see my aunts and cousins again, Your Grace. I had merely gone for a ride to meet my grandfather in the North."

Jaehaerys, growing impatient, warned Aemon, "You are pushing your luck."

Aemon, displaying a precocious diplomacy, quickly apologized. "Forgive me, your grace."

The elderly King sighed, acknowledging the toll of his age. In an attempt to redirect the conversation, Jaehaerys pointed out, "You now ride a dragon."

The smirk on Aemon's face vanishes, and the small whisper of Lyanna's face on Aemon's is replaced with the cold, stoic face of the Stark Kings. Aemon replied seriously, "Indeed, I ride Balerion the Black Dread." Jaehaerys then turned his attention to the dire wolf accompanying Aemon. Aemon introduced, "This is Ghost, my dire wolf. We fought together against both wildlings and Night's Watch deserters." The dynamics in the room grew more intricate with every revelation.

Jaehaerys' countenance grew serious as he fixed his gaze on Aemon. "You bonded with Balerion and left soon after. Explain yourself, Prince Aemon," he inquired sternly. Daemon did not miss that King Jaehaerys used the title prince and was showing no kindness in his speech.

Aemon, maintaining a stoic expression, replied, "I wished to go North and aid it. I had heard during the small council meeting that the North needed aid, and as one with Stark blood, it was my duty to come when my kin called for me"

Jaehaerys retorted, "The Starks did not call for you. You were in no position to leave the Red Keep nor King's Landing."

Aemon did not take his eyes off of the King as he spoke. "I then put myself in the position to leave, Your Grace. As the small council discussed, neither you nor Prince Viserys could not leave to go North, and my aunts and cousin were too young to do the same."

King Jaehaerys began to grow frustrated. Daemon could see the Old King begin to hold back his rage as the calm facade momentarily slipped. "If you understood that your aunts and cousins were too young to act, you must also conclude that you were too young. You are a boy, Prince Aemon. You are to stay here in the Red Keep. Five is too young to see war and bloodshed."

Aemon scratched the back of Ghost's neck. Daemon looked at his son, clad in black clothing, standing next to the white beast. Daemon did not see a boy when he looked at his son. He would always be his boy, Lyanna's boy, but for now, in Demon's eyes, Daemon could see a man grown looking back at the King. "I won't be a boy forever, my King. And winter is coming. I took Balerion so that no one else needed to leave."

Daemon did not know how to feel when those words were said. He wanted to be proud of his son. Standing up to the King, like he and Lyanna had done, riding the greatest dragon, supposedly winning battles. But he did not wish to think about the innocents his son had already lost, not even over half a decade old. His son was too young for such talks, and because his grandfather and brother could not manage the realm correctly, his son had to suffer for it.

Jaehaerys seemed to tighten his grip on the Iron Throne as his eyes burned with anger. Daemon could tell the man was holding his anger at bay, maybe due to the time spent alongside Aemon since the Grand Council. "I did not allow you to fly off like that."

Aemon calmly explained, "I took Balerion to fight the Wildling Invasion. The North needed my aid, and as a member of the Crown and as the heir of Winterfell, I supplied my aid."

The King's anger surfaced, "You're leaving the Dragon Pit, causing damage to the city! Balerion burst out the side of the Rhaenys' Hill, and the earth quaked so violently that some of the structures in the city nearly collapsed!"

Aemon defended himself, "Balerion did not hurt a single person. We escaped away from populated areas."

Skeptical Jaehaerys argued, "You wouldn't know. You left immediately after bonding with the dragon. The city was filled with terror at the thought that one of the dragons had gone wild. Then, when inspected, Aegon's dragon and a prince of the realm were found missing."

Unable to contain his frustration, Daemon stood up and glared at his grandfather, declaring, "My son did nothing wrong." Daemon would not have his son be ridiculed in front of the court. He had let this go on for long enough, he knew his son needed to defend his actions, but he would no longer do so alone.

Angrily, Jaehaerys asserted, "He flew off to the North without the leave of the Crown. I will not hear words from you, Daemon. This is not the first time that a prince of the realm left to do as he wished and against the wishes of the Crown, and I will remind you of the punishment you faced for it."

"You will not dare to do the same twice," Daemon shot back. He grabbed Dark Sister and drew it from his sheath. The Kingsguard did the same as each man pointed their swords at the ready. Lord Rickon drew his sword and stood by Daemon's side as Ghost snarled without making a sound. The other Northern lords followed their luggage lords' lead and did the same. "My son is the Crown. He can do as he pleases."

"You will bear your blade to me?" Jaehaerys said angrily.

"I will bare my blade for my son," Daemon said. "I have been whipped by my father and deprived of my son for picking Lyanna. I will make the same choice every single f*cking time! But I will not stand by as my son is ridiculed for your failed decision! He is a boy of five, and he had to fix a problem you could not fix!"

Jaehaerys looked to the Northern Lords. "I could have your heads for this."

Daemon recalled that Lord Rickon was just as wild and insane as his Lyanna. "The lad fought for the North! And even if he were not my blood, any man willing to fight for the North is one I would fight alongside! You are the one who questioned our grandson for doing the honorable thing! Not that most of you Southerners know a thing about honor. We had sent ravens to the south for aid, and a boy of five answered the call. All of you should be ashamed of your damned selves."

The Kingsguard marched closer, but Ghost stood tall, his body arched, ready to pounce, and Daemon doubted five Kingsguard were enough to kill him, let alone the three currently standing before the King. "Ghost killed more wildlings and deserters during the battles than any man living. I don't want to add honorable Kingsguard to the list," Aemon said.

"You are a squire to a Kingsguard, Aemon," Jaehaerys replied.

"Neither the Lord Commander nor Ser Harrold Westerling are here; Ser Harrold was outside when he let me in, and the Lord Commander is more than likely resting after a long shift. And I am sorry to say this, with all due respect, those are the only two Kingsguard Ghost needs to worry about," Aemon said. "A prince serves the realm, and the North needed me. I will willingly fight and die on that hill for the rest of my days. The North was being raided. Men killed. Women raped. Children abducted. Fields burned. The North needed me, and I needed to serve."

Jaehaeys said nothing for some time. Daemon did not know what was going to happen. Daemon was the first to draw the blade, and this escalation would be firmly placed on his head. For a heartbeat, Daemon thought Jaehaerys would claim all their heads save for Aemon to keep the North in check and merely skip off Daemon in the line of succession. "Raising your sword to your king is treason," King Jaehaery replied sternly. "I am sure you were just looking over your blades to see how damaged they were for the blacksmiths to fix."

Daemon noticed the opportunity Jaehaerys gave them to lower their weapons, and he was going to not use the chance. He wanted to show King Jaehaerys he would support his son over the Crown he would inherit after Viserys every day of his life. But instead of the standoff continuing, Aemon looked to Ghost to stand down; Rickon turned to Aemon, and the pair, unspeaking, agreed. The Northern lords began lowering their weapons, and Daemon looked to his son as he followed their lead.

Jaehaerys sighed before looking at both Daemon and Rickon, firm in his position, countered, "He is not the Crown; he is only a portion of it. Without my word, Aemon had no right to leave."

Defending Aemon's actions, Daemon insisted, "The Crown must protect the realm, and Aemon did just that."

Lord Rickon Stark, breaking the tense silence, spoke up, "Aemon is the reason the North won."

Jaehaerys, skeptical, narrowed his eyes and ordered, "Lord Rickon, recount everything that happened up North." The throne room buzzed with tension as the truth unfolded.

King Jaehaerys asked the other eight lords and two Night's Watchmen to leave the throne room. They recounted their stories one by one, providing their versions of events. Now limited to King Jaehaerys, Daemon Targaryen, and Lord Rickon Stark, the room waited for the narratives to unfold.

Lord Rickon began to speak, delivering his own account of the events that unfolded in the North. A sense of consistency emerged as each Lord and Night's Watchman spoke. Their stories aligned seamlessly, like different threads weaving a tapestry of the truth. There were no contradictions or conflicting details; only different perspectives contributed to the same overarching narrative.

Those who spent any time in King's Landing and the Red Keep knew there were lies, and it was evident that no lies were found. The longer the story was and the more detail there was, the more difficult it was for multiple people to keep them all aligned with one another. And the story of what happened in the North, even after Aemon had supposedly come into the fold, was a month long.

Daemon Targaryen and those gathered in the throne room recognized a fundament